March 12, 2014
Judge upholds eviction of Wall Street protesters
A judge upheld New York City's legal justification for evicting Occupy Wall Street protesters from a park on Tuesday after police in riot gear broke up a two-month-old demonstration against economic inequality.
Protesters were allowed to return but Justice Michael Stallman found the city, at least for now, can ban them from camping in tents and sleeping bags at Zuccotti Park between Wall Street and the World Trade Center reconstruction site in lower Manhattan.
As a fellow protester read the judge's decision from a Twitter feed, Julietta Salgado and her friend Tajh Sutton, both Brooklyn College students, embraced and cried.
"It's just a snag," Salgado said, her eyes rimmed with tears. "Every time they beat us down, we come back stronger."
Police removed barricades at two points, letting people back in one by one. Shortly after dark, several hundred protesters were in the park under a light drizzle as hundreds more waited for a chance to get in.
Since Sept. 17, protesters have occupied the park to protest what they see as an unjust economic system that favors the wealthiest 1 percent at a time of persistently high employment. They also decry a political system that bailed out banks after reckless lending sparked the financial crisis.
The Occupy Wall Street movement triggered similar protests in cities throughout the United States and the world.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg decided the protesters had become a health and fire safety hazard and ordered police to evict them from the camp, where city officials cited reports of sexual assaults, thefts and drug dealing.
Hundreds of police stormed the camp around 1 a.m. (0600 GMT) and dismantled tents, tarpaulins, outdoor furniture, mattresses and signs, arresting 147 people, including about a dozen who had chained themselves to each other and to trees.
With the park cleared of protesters, sanitation workers dismantled tents, hauled away trash and blasted the square with water cannon, erasing odors of urine and human waste.
The New York Civil Liberties Union said it was "deeply concerned" about the police department's "heavy-handed tactics" and said seven journalists covering the events were arrested.
The eviction followed similar actions in Atlanta, Portland and Salt Lake City. Unlike in Oakland, California, where police used tear gas and stun grenades, New York police said most protesters left peacefully.
In London, authorities said they were resuming legal action to try to shift anti-capitalism protesters who have set up camp at St Paul's Cathedral.
Toronto officials also told protesters to break camp and leave on Tuesday.