Occupy Wall Street protesters returned to a Lower Manhattan park Tuesday evening, but they were not allowed to bring their tents and gear back to the site after a judge ruled that the protesters don't have the right to camp at Zuccotti Park.
State Supreme Court Justice Michael Stallman's decision came after police removed protesters from the site at Zuccotti Park early Tuesday in a move that led to about 200 arrests.
The New York judge denied a motion by the demonstrators seeking to be allowed back into the park with their tents and sleeping bags.
"The movants 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 owner's reasonable rights and duties to maintain Zuccotti Park, or to the rights to public access of others who might wish to use the space safely," the judge said Tuesday.
"Neither have the applicants shown a right to a temporary restraining order that would restrict the city's enforcement of law so as to promote public health and safety."
CBC's David Common said the protesters came back to the square Tuesday night even though they were no longer allowed to camp there.
"They can't sleep or even lie down," Common said, noting that it's not yet clear how the New York protesters will proceed after losing their base.
The protesters have been camped out in privately owned Zuccotti Park since mid-September.
Mayor cites health and safety concerns
Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he ordered the sweep because health and safety conditions and become "intolerable" in the crowded plaza.
At about 1 a.m. ET, hundreds of police moved into the square, ordering them out using bullhorns, the Common reported from close to the scene.
"A parade of garbage trucks came in; they threw all of their tents and camping equipment into the garbage trucks," reported Common, who said people were pushed out by riot police.
"The protesters [are] telling us there was widespread use of pepper spray. We understand there are some people in hospital."
About 200 people were arrested, including some who chained themselves together. Others chanted or shouted angrily at police and vowed to march in protest later Tuesday. More arrests were made when some protesters attempted to reoccupy Zuccotti Park, Common reported.
Police allowed some protesters to return to the park shortly after 8 a.m. Tuesday, after first checking they were not carrying camping gear. But the park was closed during Tuesday’s legal wrangling, forcing anyone inside to leave again, Common said.
By Tuesday evening, the court ruled the no-tent rule would stand and the park was re-opened. Common said protesters started returning without their tents and other supplies.
Hans Shan, an organizer who was working with churches to find places for protesters to sleep, told The Associated Press that the Occupy protest is "much bigger than a square plaza in downtown Manhattan."
"You can't evict an idea whose time has come," he said.
The Occupy movement started on Wall Street in September, and spread around the world by mid-October, when an international Day of Action was held. Occupy groups are diverse and appear generally leaderless, and while each emphasizes various concerns, they generally are fighting against the gap between the rich and poor.
New York City's mayor said the occupation had increasingly posed a health and fire hazard, and on Monday, the Canadian owners of the park, Brookfield Properties, had asked the city to assist in enforcing the rules forbidding sleeping and camping.
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"But make no mistake," Bloomberg said, "the final decision to act was mine and mine alone."
"The First Amendment gives every New Yorker the right to speak out. But it does not give anyone the right to sleep in a park or otherwise take it over to the exclusion of others, nor does it permit anyone in our society to live outside the law."
Broadcasting a livestream from the streets adjacent to the park, a videographer who identified himself as being with "The Other 99" described events from the streets around him as police moved to clear the camp.
"I'm at Broadway and Pine right now," he said. "We've got about 200, maybe 300 people standing in front of the barricade on the street.… Aside from the yelling, we have a pretty calm situation right now."
Some people had chained themselves together, forcing police to disconnect them, he said.
There were also some protesters in masks and bandanas who were accused of deflating police vehicle tires. They also tried to prevent the videographer from continuing to shoot the scene. Others in the crowd said they didn't recognize the masked people, who appeared concerned about being identified.
Notices given to the protesters said the park "poses an increasing health and fire safety hazard to those camped in the park, the city's first responders and the surrounding community."
The notice from Brookfield Properties said that tents, sleeping bags and other items had to be removed, because "the storage of these materials at this location is not allowed." Anything left behind would be taken away, the notices said, giving an address at a sanitation department building where items could be picked up.
Around 200 people were arrested, including a member of city council, at least a half-dozen journalists covering the confrontation and dozens who tried to resist the eviction by linking arms in a tight circle at the centre of the park.
The arrested journalists included a reporter and a photographer from The Associated Press who were held for four hours before being released.
The New York raid was the third in three days in a major American city. Police broke up camps Sunday in Portland, Ore., and Monday in Oakland, Calif.
The timing did not appear to be coincidence. On Tuesday, authorities acknowledged that police departments across the nation consulted with each other about non-violent ways to clear encampments. Officers in as many as 40 cities participated in the conference calls.
Earlier, the New York Times website said the clearing out of Zuccotti Park came as protesters announced on their website that they planned to "shut down Wall Street" with a demonstration on Thursday to commemorate the completion of two months of the beginning of the encampment, which has spurred similar demonstrations across the country, and around the world.