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New York Police Raid 'Occupy Wall Street' Camp


WATCH: Police drove demonstrators out of Zuccotti Park in New York's financial district early on November 15. (Reuters video)

New York City police have evicted protesters of the Occupy Wall Street movement from the city square where they have been camped since September.

Zucotti Park had become the epicenter of the movement against a financial system that protesters say mostly benefits corporations and the wealthy.

Authorities say the area had become unsanitary and hazardous and needed to be cleared.

The "Occupy Wall Street" movement has inspired similar protests across the United States and around the world.

The raid follows similar evictions in recent days, with police raiding protest tent camps in the cities of Portland, Oregon; Denver, Colorado, Salt Lake City, Utah, and Oakland, California.

Correspondents say police arrived at New York's Zuccotti Park in the early morning hours with megaphones and announced that the protesters had 10 minutes to leave the area or face arrest.

Of the hundreds of protesters who had gathered, correspondents say most had left by the early morning, leaving a small crowd at the center of the plaza surrounded by police.

Police in New York wore helmets, but not full riot gear, as they shoved groups of the remaining protesters into trucks. Others tore down tents and stacked up protest signs in piles.

'Temporarily Leave'

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's office urged the protesters to "temporarily leave and remove tents and tarps" from the area, saying they would be allowed to return later "after the park is cleared." But authorities said the demonstrators would not be allowed to set up tents in the park again or bring back tarps and sleeping bags.

"From the beginning, I've said that the city has two principal goals: guaranteeing public health and safety and guaranteeing the protesters First Amendment rights," Bloomberg said. "But when those two goals clash, the health and safety of the public and our first responders must be the priority."

Johnny Sagan, who has been camping at the New York park for weeks, told Sky News that he believes the crackdown is part of a wider effort by authorities to remove protest camps of the "Occupy Wall Street" movement from cities across the United States.

"The police chose tonight in concert with police forces around the country to flush the protesters out of the park," he said. "They had done the thing that we are now experiencing...which is to cordon off the area and refuse to allow media or citizens of the city in to see for themselves what they are doing to clear the park of protesters."

Similar evictions of the Occupy movement protestors have taken place recently across the country, including in Portland, Oregon; Denver, Colorado, Salt Lake City, Utah, and Oakland, California.

New York City's decision to clear the park was challenged just hours after the raid by a civil rights legal group who obtained a temporary court order reversing the city's action.

But late in the afternoon of November 15, a state judge upheld the eviction, saying that the protesters' constitutional rights don't entitle them to camp out indefinitely in the plaza.

Protesters returned to the park later the same night, but without the tents and sleeping bags they had brought before.

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said around 200 people were arrested in the early morning raid, including dozens who tried to resist by linking arms at the center of the park or chaining themselves together with bicycle locks.

Reports Of Rough Treatment

There were multiple reports of rough handling by the police of protesters and members of the media. A reporter for the AP was taken into police custody, along with an AP photographer and a reporter for the New York Daily News. Journalists flooded Twitter with messages describing their treatment at the hands of police, accompanied by the hashtag "media blackout."

The raid came the same day that authorities In London announced that they were resuming legal action to evict a protest camp outside St. Paul's Cathedral after talks with the demonstrators stalled.

More than 200 tents have been pitched outside the iconic church for a month in a protest inspired by the New York demonstration.

On November 14, riot police in Oakland, California, dismantled a protest camp, arresting more than 30 protesters as part of an increasingly tough line taken by authorities against the protests.

Oakland Mayor Jean Quan said the operation was prompted by a recent murder that happened near the demonstration.

"The encampment became a place where we had repeated violence and this week, a murder," Quan said. "We had to bring the camp to an end before more people were hurt."

But a top legal adviser to the Oakland mayor, civil rights attorney Dan Siegel, announced that he had resigned to protest the crackdown.

'We'll Come Back'

Jan Clausen, a New York resident who supports the Occupy Wall Street movement, predicted after the raid in Oakland that police raids will not be able to keep demonstrators out of places like Zuccotti Park for long.

"I was just at home watching on the Internet live coverage from Oakland and people were basically cheering and saying, 'We're leaving today, but we'll be back tomorrow.' And I think that's the wonderful spirit in New York City and all over the place is, we're not quitting," Clausen said. "We'll have setbacks. They'll try to kick us out. But if they kick us out, we'll come back."

Nathan Stueve, an Occupy Wall Street protester who was encamped in New York's Zuccotti Park, says he thinks the police raids are angering people and will cause more people to join the street rallies.

"It didn't really achieve the purposes of the police department at Oakland, because all that happened is more people joined in the protests and it became more militant, more determined, and larger," Stueve said.

The demonstrations against corporate greed and corruption have seen an eclectic group of mainly young people set up tents in city squares across the country.

Coming a year ahead of presidential and congressional elections, the Occupy Wall Street movement has brought together a loose coalition of people who are unhappy about growing economic inequality in the United States. They say they oppose the "1 percent" of business and political elites who are becoming richer while the rest of the country finds it increasingly difficult to make ends meet.

The demonstrators -- who also accuse Washington politicians of enabling the bankers that brought down the American economy in 2008 -- say they have been inspired by the Arab Spring revolts that have convulsed the Middle East.

compiled from agency reports

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