Mayor defends Occupy eviction as judge hears challenge

Occupy Wall Street protesters have remained defiant after being evicted by police

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New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has defended Tuesday's raid on the Occupy Wall Street camp, as activists mount a legal challenge to the eviction.

A court hearing is under way into the legality of the clear-out after a temporary legal order was granted allowing protesters to stay.

Police arrested some 200 people in the surprise pre-dawn raid on Zuccotti Park and later held several journalists.

A number of other US protest camps have also been cleared in recent days.

At the scene

Protesters are circling Zuccotti Park, chanting: "Whose park? Our park!" while the space inside has been thoroughly scrubbed and cleaned. Earlier this morning the smell of disinfectant was in the air.

The police - in full riot gear - are ringing the metal barriers that are blocking off the park.

The mood seems to change by the minute. For a few moments it is angry and confrontational. Then the demonstration seems almost dutiful, by rote, and then there is a sudden mood of celebration as a trumpet plays a Mariachi tune.

One man tells me that they are going to force their way back in. He tells me: "There is a tsunami on the way." Another man warns the police: "We're on for a rumble."

But they are very much in the minority and there are a large number of people carrying banners urging non-violence.

Mayor Bloomberg said the protesters had the right to make their views known and could return to the park to protest, but would not be allowed to camp out there.

"The First Amendment gives every New Yorker the right to speak out - but it does not give anyone the right to sleep in a park or otherwise take it over to the exclusion of others," he said.

Mr Bloomberg said the city would contest a motion filed by the National Lawyers Guild, a civil rights organisation, that has been representing arrested protesters.

It was granted a temporary court order allowing the protesters to return with their tents. A state court judge has convened a hearing on the legality of the eviction.

'Bleeding profusely'

Demonstrators gathered around the park demanding to be let back in, but Mr Bloomberg said the park would stay shut until the court order was clarified. A ring of police barricades remained in place.

Protesters also assembled at nearby Foley Square, and posted updates from there to a new Twitter account.

Some also tried to occupy Duarte Square, but were thwarted by police, who made several arrests.

Hundreds of police officers in riot gear surrounded the privately owned, publicly accessible Zuccotti Park overnight, before ordering the protesters to leave.

Mayor Bloomberg: "The first amendment does not protect the use of tents and sleeping bags"

Tuesday's operation, launched at about 01:00 (0600 GMT), swept most of the demonstrators out within an hour.

As a helicopter circled above, clean-up crews worked through the night clearing away piles of rubbish.

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said about 200 people had been arrested, including dozens who tried to resist by linking arms or chaining themselves together with bicycle locks.

"I was bleeding profusely. They shoved a lot of people's faces into the ground," protester Max Luisdaniel Santos, 31, told the Associated Press news agency.

At least four journalists were later arrested while covering subsequent protests in lower Manhattan.

They included a reporter and photographer for the Associated Press news agency and a journalist from the Daily News.

Small-business owners had complained about the noise and unsanitary conditions in the camp, accusing demonstrators of messing up their toilet facilities and driving away customers.

Residents meanwhile had said parts of the park smelled of urine and excrement, while officials and protesters had reported incidents of sexual assault, theft and drug dealing at the site.

While many welcomed the eviction, Mr Bloomberg's decision was also criticised.

New York Public Advocate Bill de Blasio said in a statement on Tuesday that the raid had been "a needlessly provocative and legally questionable decision".

US Europe UK Canada Australia Protests map

US

New York

The most high profile protest has been Occupy Wall Street in New York, which began on 17 September. The protesters call themselves "the 99%" and are demanding major reforms of the global financial system by curbing the power of banks and corporations. Protests have also taken place in cities across the US, including Washington DC, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Denver, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Houston and Boston. On 15 November, police moved in to clear the Occupy Wall Street protest, earlier they had cleared camps in Portland, Oregon and Oakland, California.

Europe

Europe

A protest in Madrid's Sol Square began in May and turned into a week-long sit in. Renewed protests in Europe started on 15 October with demonstrations in Rome, Berlin, Frankfurt, Leipzig, Hamburg, Dublin, Bucharest, Zurich and other cities. Demonstrations were largely peaceful, but around 70 people were injured when violence broke out in Rome.

UK

London

Protests at the London Stock Exchange in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street began on 15 October. After being denied access to Paternoster Square in front of the stock exchange, demonstrators organised a camp of around 150 tents outside St Paul's Cathedral. Protesters were told their camp could remain until the new year, on condition some tents blocking the "public highway" were removed. But the City of London Corporation said it was proceeding with legal action on 16 November, after talks with the protesters broke down.

Canada

Canada

Demonstrations and protest camps began on 15 October in major cities, including Calgary, Halifax, Quebec, Toronto, Vancouver and Victoria. Police have cleared protesters from sites in Halifax and Ontario but campaigners at the biggest camp, in Toronto, have been allowed to remain.

Australia

Australia

Protests began in Sydney and Melbourne on 15 October. Police forcibly removed around 100 demonstrators from the Melbourne camp on 21 October.

In other developments on Tuesday:

  • In London, authorities re-opened legal action against a similar demonstration camp outside St Paul's Cathedral
  • In Toronto, eviction notices were delivered to Occupy protesters who have been camped in a downtown park since mid-October
  • Activists planned to converge at the University of California, Berkeley, in an attempt to set up an Occupy camp

The New York clear-out comes after police arrested dozens of people in Oakland, California as they closed the protest camp in the centre of that city on Monday morning.

There was a fatal shooting near the camp last week and Oakland Mayor Jean Quan said she had to evict the demonstrators "before someone else got hurt".

Since the weekend, police have also closed solidarity protest camps in Portland, Oregon; Burlington, Vermont; Denver, Colorado; Salt Lake City, Utah; and St Louis, Missouri.

The Occupy movement, inspired by the Arab Spring uprisings and economic protest camps in Spain, is calling for a more equal distribution of the world's wealth.

The US activists say the billions of dollars in bank bailouts doled out during the recession allowed banks to resume earning huge profits - and executives to take home million-dollar bonuses.

Meanwhile, average Americans have had no relief from high unemployment and job insecurity.

They also say the richest 1% of Americans do not pay their fair share in taxes.

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