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OWS Protesters Remain In Zuccotti Park, But Without Tents And Sleeping Bags

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Twenty-four hours after police forcibly removed scores of Occupy Wall Street protesters from the Financial District's Zuccotti Park, protesters were back in the park early Wednesday morning – but this time without tents or sleeping bags.

After nearly two months of occupation by members of the anti-Wall Street movement, the park was seized early Tuesday morning by police who carted away occupiers' belongings while many protesters resisted. Protesters were then allowed to return to the park on Tuesday night, but only after being patted down by police and security to make sure they had no overnight gear.

By early Wednesday morning the park was again occupied as police stood watch in and around the area.

At least 200 protesters were arrested for disorderly conduct and resisting officers' orders after police moved in shortly after 1 a.m. Tuesday to clear an estimated 200 inhabitants who were camped out in the park (see video below).

Throngs of sanitation workers then moved in to clear the park of debris, collect protesters' possessions and steam clean the park grounds.

State Supreme Court Denies Protesters' Right To Camp Out

As the city was preparing to reopen the park at 8 a.m. Tuesday, attorneys for the Occupy Wall Street movement sought a judicial ruling that would allow protesters to return to the park with overnight gear, over the objection of city officials who wanted tents and overnight barred from the area.

A New York State Supreme Court judge subsequently sided with the city, ruling that Occupy Wall Street protesters would no longer be allowed to bring in their tents or sleeping bags.

In his ruling, the Honorable Michael Stallman turned down protesters' application for a temporary restraining order, saying their First Amendment rights do not supersede the city's "enforcement of law so as to promote public health and safety."

The judge ruled that protesters could return to the park, but that they must respect "reasonable rules" established by Brookfield Properties, the owner of Zuccotti Park.

Both the City Law Department and Mayor Michael Bloomberg praised the ruling, stressing that they felt First Amendment rights do not extend to camping on privately-owned grounds.

In response to the ruling, two Manhattan churches – Middle Collegiate Church in the East Village and the Church of St. Paul and St. Andrew on the Upper West Side – offered space to protesters on Tuesday night. It was unclear whether any of the protesters would accept the offers.

Protesters who spoke with NY1 late Tuesday said they would continue their demonstrations regardless of their location.

"You can see how exciting it is, that so many people have come out tonight to support our movement, and I think it shows that we're just going to continue to grow, to expand, regardless of whether we reclaim our encampment here or set up one somewhere else," said a protester. "We're going to continue to occupy and continue to spread our message."

"I think it was completely unconstitutional, because they even shut down the trains coming to this area to make sure nobody could be around," said another. "So I think now the world can just see what happened. What happened was completely insane, because if what the police are doing is right, why not do it where everyone can see it?"

"Some people here are working people and they occupy, showing their support by their bodies being here, and then there's homeless people and they were getting their needs met here. They were getting food, clothes, doctors, and they threw all that away," said a third. "So I think that's going to make them look horrible and add fuel to the fire and bring more people to the movement."

Demonstrators who lost property in the morning police action were told to come at noon to the District 7 Garage on West 56th Street between 11th and 12th Avenues to pick up the materials – but when they got there, the pick-up time was switched to 8 a.m. Wednesday.

Sanitation Department police said they pushed the time back in order to make the pick-up as orderly as possible.

Officials said those who want to claim property at the garage should go between 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. from Wednesday through Friday. They should bring a valid photo ID and, once there, fill out a claim form and provide proof of ownership. Sanitation officials will then determine whether to return the item or put it aside for future determination.

Another Manhattan Park Briefly "Occupied" After Zuccotti Raid

Protesters had been camping out in Zuccotti Park since September 17 – but Mayor Michael Bloomberg had expressed repeated concerns that the encampment was interfering with businesses in the area, and that conditions in the park were becoming increasingly unsanitary.

At approximately 1 a.m. Tuesday, the mayor's Twitter feed at NYCMayorsOffice, stated: "Occupants of Zuccotti should temporarily leave and remove tents and tarps. Protestors can return after the Park is cleared."

Police arrived at the park in force and police helicopters could be seen above as authorities confiscated tents and other overnight gear from some occupiers, with instructions that they could claim their belongings later in the day at the Department of Sanitation.

As police closed the park, scores of protesters marched 10 blocks north toward Foley Square, singing "We Shall Overcome." Other protesters swelled their ranks, and by 7 a.m. several hundred protesters had gathered there to plot their next move.

"The law that created Zuccotti Park required that it be open for the public to enjoy for passive recreation 24 hours a day. Ever since the occupation began, that law has not been complied with, as the park has been taken over by protestors, making it unavailable to anyone else," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in a statement released at around 6 a.m. Tuesday. "From the beginning, I have said that the city had two principal goals: guaranteeing public health and safety, and guaranteeing the protestors’ First Amendment rights. But when those two goals clash, the health and safety of the public and our first responders must be the priority."

Authorities told protesters who had been ousted from Zuccotti Park that they would be able to return to the park after it had been cleaned, but without the tents or sleeping bags that had allowed them to stay in the park for nearly two months straight.

However, at an 8:30 a.m. press conference, the mayor said that the reopening of the park, which had already begun at around 8 a.m, would instead be delayed while city officials responded to a court order obtained by attorneys for the protesters directing that the city permit occupiers to return to the park with their belongings. That court ultimately sided with the city in allowing protesters back into the park, but only without tents and sleeping bags.

The mayor said Brookfield Properties had asked the city for help in enforcing the park's no camping and sleeping rules, but said that the final decision to act was his.

"Make no mistake the final decision to act was mine and mine alone. The park has become covered in tents and tarps, making it next to impossible to safely navigate for the public and for first responders who are responsible for guaranteeing public safety," Bloomberg said.

Many protesters were said to have left the park peacefully as police moved in overnight, but NY1's Lindsey Christ reported at around 3 a.m. that there were screams from protesters as police with sticks tried to move them out of the area.

Many protesters also fought back with some tying themselves to trees and chaining themselves together.

The Manhattan district attorney's office said each of Tuesday's arrests will be screened individually. Prosecutors will be looking at videos and interviews with the arresting officers before determining if there is enough evidence to file criminal complaints.

After police evicted protesters from Zuccotti Park early Tuesday morning, a splinter group of protesters briefly gathered at a park located on Sixth Avenue and Canal Street near the entrance to the Holland Tunnel. The park, owned by Trinity Church, is blocked off by fences, which the protesters jumped over.

There was a brief stand-off between demonstrators and police, with religious leaders in between, leading prayer chants. After less than an hour, police officers moved in, prompting many protesters to hop back over the fences and disperse.

Trinity Wall Street officials released a statement saying that although they support the right to protest they have not given Occupy Wall Street permission to use the square.

Manhattan Councilman Says He Was Wounded During Arrest

An elected official from Manhattan said he was assaulted by police during the morning sweep at Zuccotti Park.

Manhattan Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez walked out of the courthouses at 100 Centre Street Tuesday night, after being detained for several hours.

Rodriguez said he got word of the protesters being cleared from the park and went down to see what was going on.

Showing cuts on his hand and face, Rodriguez said he was roughed up before being arrested. He also said the incident would not stop him from supporting the movement.

"Occupy does not live in New York City. Occupy is a movement that represents the 99 percent [of Americans], and it's time for us to continue supporting this movement," said Rodriguez.

"Those that choose to dig their heads in the sand and make believe that this is not happening will have a rude awakening," said Manhattan Senator Adriano Espaillat.

"His rights were violated. The Constitution was suspended today from Zuccotti Park to here at 100 Centre Street," said Brooklyn Councilman Letitia James.

Rodriguez is charged with obstruction of governmental administration and resisting arrest.

Several Journalists Among The Arrests

At least half a dozen journalists were arrested Tuesday in and around Zuccotti Park and other protest sites.

Among those arrested was a cameraman who climbed on top of a phone kiosk to get video of the protesters. He was apparently pulled to the ground by police.

Members of NY1's staff saw police arrest several journalists, including freelance radio journalist and former NY1 employee Julie Walker.

The mayor defended the NYPD's policy of keeping the media back, saying it is meant to keep them out of harm's way.

On Tuesday's edition of "Inside City Hall," Police Commissioner Ray Kelly also defended the officers' actions.

"There were reporters on the scene as well. They were asked to leave. They don't have a right to be on private property just as the trespassers did,” said Kelly. “Some refused to leave. Some reporters left. Others refused to leave. They were arrested with the demonstrators. I think there was confusion on their part as to just what they're allowed to do."

President Gabe Pressman of the New York Press Club Foundation is demanding an investigation. He wrote in a letter to the mayor and the commissioner, "The brash manner in which officers ordered reporters off the streets and then made them back off until the actions of the police were almost invisible is outrageous."

Also Tuesday, several City Council members expressed their objections to the clearing of Zuccotti Park and the arrest of Councilman Rodriguez. Mayoral hopefuls, including City Comptroller John Liu, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, were among the vocal critics of Bloomberg.

Meanwhile, as President Barack Obama flew to Australia on Tuesday, his administration said it is up to individual cities to decide how much force to use against Occupy Wall Street protesters.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said Obama was aware of the police action at Zuccotti Park, and that he hoped the right balance could be struck between protecting freedoms of assembly and speech and the need to protect public health and safety.

Clearing Zuccotti Park As Captured By NY1

TWC News: OWS Protesters Remain In Zuccotti Park, But Without Tents And Sleeping Bags
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