US court upholds eviction of Wall Street protesters

The ruling came hours after at least 200 protesters at the park in Lower Manhattan were arrested in police raid yesterday, ending the two-month long encampment.

A federal judge ruled in favour of the city saying authorities can stop demonstrators from returning to the site.

Justice Michael Stallman of State Supreme Court ruled late yesterday against the protesters saying they could go into Zuccotti Park but without their tents and sleeping bags.

In the four-page ruling Stallman said 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 landlord or "others who might wish to use the space safely."

The judge said that the city could block protesters from returning to the park and set up overnight encampments there, upholding a move by New York City and the landlord of the privately owned plaza.

New York Mayor Micheal Bloomberg had justified the raid saying "unfortunately" the park was becoming a place where people came not to protest, but to break laws and harm others and the occupation was posing a "health and fire safety hazard to the protesters and to the surrounding community."

Sheryl Neufeld, a lawyer for the city, said the tents and other structures like generators as well as concerns about sanitation and waste, made the encampment a fire and safety hazard. She said the tightness of the encampment would make evacuation difficult in case of a fire.

The city late in the evening reopened the park allowing a single file of people to walk in.
About 200 people were arrested in the raid and charged with disorderly conduct and with resisting arrest. The tents and sleeping bags that were strewn across the park were hauled away to a city garage facility. At least four journalists, who followed the protesters to a nearby protest site were also led out in handcuffs, including a reporter and photographer for The Associated Press and a reporter from The Daily News.

The roads leading up to the Zuccotti park area in lower Manhattan were packed with police personnel and NYPD vans as they blocked the protesters and passers by from entering the Liberty Plaza, a 33000-square-foot park.

The police had cordoned off the area and kept a close watch on the hundreds of protesters who gathered at the park's perimeter, holding placards, banners and carried on with their protests against corporate America.

The protesters carried banners that read 'I will never get a job in this economy', 'We are 99 per cent, we are too big to fail', 'The time to make  our economy fair is now.'

The demonstrators were not budging from the area saying the police action and the judge's ruling only strengthened their resolve to continue their protests.

"The movement may change slightly as a result of the police action but it would not stop," Neil, a young financial executive, protesting in the park said.

He said necessity is the mother of invention and the protesters will "get creative" to continue their demonstrations at the park.

"This is just a road block for today, tomorrow is another day. It is going to be a long hard winter," he said.

Steve White, a bookseller who was one of the protesters said the police raid will not change anything for the Occupy Wall Street movement.

"Nothing is going to change for me. I do not want anybody to think we are going away," White said waiving a banner.

Bloomberg had said there were reports of businesses being threatened and complaints about noise and unsanitary conditions in the park that have seriously impacted the quality of life for residents and businesses in the neighborhood.

"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 protesters, making it unavailable to anyone else," Bloomberg said.

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