Under cover of night and without warning, New York City Police pushed Occupy Wall Street protesters out of the city’s Zuccotti Park early Tuesday after New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg ordered the encampment cleared for cleaning.
Late Tuesday afternoon, a New York Supreme Court judge overturned a lower court ruling that the protesters could re-establish their tents.
Justice Michael Stallman said in his ruling that the protesters "have not demonstrated that they have a First Amendment right to remain in Zuccotti Park, along with their tents, structures, generators and other installations to the exclusion of the owner's reasonable rights ... or to the rights to public access of others who might wish to use the space safely."
After the ruling, protesters nonetheless returned to the park, this time without their tents.
Around 1 A.M. Tuesday morning, police had surrounded the park in riot gear and informed the protesters that tents and other property would need to be removed from the park to make way for sanitation trucks. While many protesters followed the orders peacefully, some refused to leave, with a group chaining themselves together with bike locks in defiance of the order. More than 70 people were arrested.
The move came just as organizers announced plans to hold a “shut down Wall Street” demonstration Thursday to mark the two-month anniversary of the encampment in Lower Manhattan. Also, a group opposing the protests held their own demonstration in front of City Hall Monday evening, urging the mayor to clear the group from the park.
Last month, the protesters were able to avoid evacuating the park for scheduled cleaning by doing the work themselves after New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg released a statement one day prior warning protesters of the evacuation.
Following the cleaning, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that protesters would no longer be allowed to set up an encampment on the park grounds that have come to represent the physical headquarters of the Occupy Movement. Occupy Wall Street organizers preempted the move when they obtained the court order, explicitly allowing them to enter the park with “tents and other property.” The Supreme Court ruling overturned the court order allowing the encampment. It came as at least partial vindication of Bloomberg's original decision.
"The law that created Zuccotti Park required that it be open for the public to enjoy for passive recreation 24 hours a day," Bloomberg said at his news conference. "Ever since the occupation began, that law has not been complied with, as the park has been taken over by protesters, making it unavailable to anyone else."
Later Tuesday morning, the Occupy Wall Street website announced plans to stage a rally and general assembly meeting in Lower Manhattan and called upon supporters to keep the momentum going despite the eviction.
“This movement can't be contained in one square block in lower Manhattan. It is bigger than that. You can't evict an idea whose time had come,” they wrote.
In other Occupy news, in Oakland, Monday, protesters returned to a downtown plaza after being evicted by hundreds of police officers, arresting 33 people and flattening their encampment.
In London, authorities plan to resume legal action to evict the protest camp outside St. Paul's Cathedral. More than 200 tents have been pitched outside St. Paul's since Oct. 15.
(Photo: LUCAS JACKSON/Reuters /Landov)