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NEW YORK-Citing "fire and health hazards," New York Mayor, Michael Bloomberg ordered police to clear the Occupy Wall Street encampment in Zuccotti Park. He stated that protesters can still gather there, but can no longer camp in the park. Of the over 220 people in the park at the time of the sweep, over 142 protesters were arrested in the park and another 50 outside the park during the operation.
The number of protesters has grown in recent weeks, and so have the number of arrests. The actions in New York have followed on the heels of similar crack-downs in Oakland and Portland. Protesters were told at 1 am in the morning that they needed to collect their tents and sleeping bags, after which workers employed by the city began removing all the remaining belongings.
Bloomberg said that rules prohibiting camping in the park would be enforced and the park will remain closed pending the results of a temporary restraining order that seeks to allow the protesters to return to the park with their belongings.
Bloomberg announced at a press conference, “The First Amendment protects speech, it doesn’t protect the use of tents and sleeping bags to take over a public space. Protesters have had two months to occupy the park with tents and sleeping bags. Now they will have to occupy the space with the power of their arguments.”
Saying that the conditions in the park had become dangerous, unhealthy and unsafe, Bloomberg said in a statement, “These risks were unacceptable and it would have been irresponsible to not request that the city take action. Further, we have a legal obligation to the city and to this neighborhood to keep the park accessible to all who wish to enjoy it, which had become impossible.”
Protesters have been camping in the park owned by Brookfield Office Properties since early September. One can’t help but think that the statement made by protesters that they were going to mark the two month anniversary of the protests with a close-down of Wall Street and the subways perhaps hastened the actions by the city of New York.
Activists made a public statement at 2:25 am after the crack-down, they said, “Some politicians may physically remove us from public spaces — our spaces, you cannot evict an idea whose time has come.” Activists said that when the police moved in they broke down tents and destroyed everything as they began to make arrests.