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Video: Police pepper spray Occupy Seattle protesters

NBC, msnbc.com and news services
updated 11/16/2011 11:14:17 AM ET 2011-11-16T16:14:17

Protesters returned to the home of "Occupy Wall Street" on Tuesday after a tumultuous day that started with their eviction by police.

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Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan was filled, but demonstrators were not allowed to bring tents, tarps, generators and camping equipment, WNBC reported.

"Small backpacks are allowed," an NYPD chief bellowed through a bullhorn as demonstrators filed back into the plaza after a New York judge upheld the city's dismantling of the encampment.

Protesters' First Amendment rights don't entitle them to camp out indefinitely in the plaza, ruled New York City Supreme Court Justice Michael Stallman as he denied a motion by demonstrators seeking to re-establish their camp. (Read his ruling here.)

"Even protected speech is not equally permissible in all places and at all times," Stallman ruled.

Police cleared out protesters in a nighttime sweep early Tuesday. The judge upheld the city's effective eviction of the protesters after an emergency appeal by the National Lawyers Guild.

The protesters had been camped out in privately owned Zuccotti Park since mid-September. Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he ordered the sweep because health and safety conditions had become "intolerable" in the crowded plaza.

The protesters allowed in Zuccotti Park will have to abide by the park rules — designed to prevent them from setting up a camp again — that included a ban on sleeping bags, tents and the storage of belongings in the space.

Story: Mayors deny colluding on 'Occupy' crackdowns

Stallman ruled after the city filed papers opposing a temporary restraining order issued early Tuesday. The earlier order, published on The New York Times website, said authorities were prohibited from "preventing protesters from re-entering the park with tents and other property previously utilized."

But Bloomberg closed the park while lawyers reviewed the order.

The city claimed that giving protesters free reign over the park would cause unsafe and unsanitary conditions. They also claimed occupiers were stockpiling makeshift weapons including metal-pipes inside cardboard tubes, WNBC reported.

PhotoBlog: Dispatches from the disputed streets

The park had become a health and fire safety hazard and that "unfortunately ... (it) became a place not to protest, but to break the law," Bloomberg said Tuesday.

"Inaction was not an option," he said. "We could not wait for someone in the park to get killed."

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said around 200 were arrested overnight, including dozens who tried to resist by linking arms at the center of Zuccotti Park or chaining themselves together with bicycle locks.

NBC New York's Jonathan Dienst, who was at the scene in Lower Manhattan, reported that he had counted a further 40 arrests along Broadway.

Jay-Z and others who are profiting from Occupy Wall Street

A few protesters, who appeared to resist and shove officers, were thrown to the ground and placed in handcuffs, he reported.

Ryan Peters, 29, from Chicago, who took a leave of absence from the advertising agency where he works to tour different Occupy protests, cried as he told msnbc.com's Miranda Leitsinger that about 30 people had chained themselves up inside the Occupy protest's kitchen area.

"People want to fight for something that's really important," he said. "It makes me cry every time I think of them (the people in the kitchen) getting locked down in the park … these guys are patriots."

Another protester, Luc Baillargeon, 29, told Leitsinger that "a few" people were treated for pepper burns and minor lacerations but he added there were no apparent signs of serious injuries. NYPD told WNBC three people were injured during the evacuations, one of whom was taken to Bellevue Hospital.

Meanwhile, a message on the @OccupyWallSt Twitter account said that city council member Ydanis Rodriguez was "beaten by nypd and bleeding from head."

Police confirmed Rodriguez was part of a group arrested near Cortlandt Street and Broadway as they tried to push through a barricade around 1:45 a.m., NBC reported.

Josh Harkinson, writer for Mother Jones magazine and one of the few journalists present during the eviction, reported on Twitter that he heard from several sources that police felled a tree in the park in order to remove protesters who had climbed to safety.

Image: Trash is piled high near Zuccotti Park, Occupy Wall Street's longtime encampment in New York, during the cleanup effort early Tuesday.
John Minchillo  /  AP
Trash is piled high near Zuccotti Park, Occupy Wall Street's longtime encampment in New York, during the cleanup effort early Tuesday. AP Photo/John Minchillo

Regrouping?
After being evicted, several hundred demonstrators regrouped in nearby Foley Square to discuss their next move, setting up a new Twitter account.

Nicholas Frechette, 25, said he had been pepper sprayed during the eviction but was undeterred.

"We broke the night together doing something truly revolutionary," he said in Foley Square.

Protesters also grouped at Duarte Square, a city park at Canal Street and Avenue of the americas, about a mile north north of Zuccotti park. Two people with bolt cutters allegedly snipped a lock to a fenced-off lot at nearby Trinity Church aroud 11 a.m. EST. Police came in and cleared them out, arresting about two dozen people in the process, The New York Times reported.

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After the church-lot was swept, about 350 protesters marched back to Zuccotti Park, blocking Broadway traffic along the way. They circled the park while awaiting the outcome of the court hearing.

Msnbc.com's Bob Sullivan reported from the scene that many police officers in riot gear had their helmets off and were chatting.

Police searched protesters as they let them back into the park.

The police operation in the park — known by the demonstrators as Liberty Park or Liberty Square — comes just two days ahead of a massive planned demonstration Thursday marking the movement's two-month anniversary.

Earlier, Mayor Bloomberg defended the move to evict the protesters and tear down their tent city, saying in a statement that the park was "becoming a place where people came not to protest, but rather to break laws, and in some cases, to harm others."

"Protesters have had two months to occupy the park with tents and sleeping bags," he added. "Now they will have to occupy the space with the power of their arguments."

The park was cleared in less than three hours in what appeared to be a highly coordinated action, prompting firebrand left-wing film-maker and activist Michael Moore to ask on Twitter whether President Obama or federal agencies had been involved in planning the clearance and similar evictions of Occupy camps elsewhere in the US.

Letters to protesters
After the raid, thousands of dollars worth of computer and camera equipment, tents and sleeping bags could be seen piled in the center of the park by sanitation workers. Police said in a statement that the items would be brought to a sanitation garage where they could be collected later.

By 9 a.m. ET, the park had been power-washed clean by city workers and stood empty — as seen in this picture from msnbc.com's Jonathan Woods — as police in riot gear waited for orders to reopen it.

Police earlier handed out notices from Brookfield Office Properties, owner of Zuccotti Park, and the city saying that the park had to be cleared because it had become unsanitary and hazardous.

Justin Stone-Diaz, a member of the "Think Tank" policy group set up by the protesters, told msnbc.com he saw that police had a Long Range Acoustic Device — a powerful speaker that disperses crowds by producing an uncomfortable sound.

Story: Six arrested in anti-police march in Oakland, California

Another protester, Nan Terrie, an 18-year-old law student, told msnbc.com that a number of people had formed an interlocking human chain in the women's tent.  "This is an illegal eviction (that) they are trying to do to us," she said.

Thorin Caristo, 37, whose eyes appeared red and swollen, told msnbc.com he felt stinging in his eyes for several minutes after being cleared from the camp.

"I feel like this (action) will be a catalyst for the movement," he said.

Image: A demonstrator yells at police officers as they order Occupy Wall Street protesters to leave Zuccotti Park, their longtime encampment in New York, early Tuesday.
Mary Altaffer  /  AP
A demonstrator yells at police officers as they order Occupy Wall Street protesters to leave Zuccotti Park, their longtime encampment in New York, early Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2011. AP Photo/Mary Altaffer

Protester John Murdock told msnbc.com he was arrested and held for four hours. "Shame on America, shame on the police," he said. "This is not okay. This is an embarassment for the country.

"We're just getting started. We changed the conversation of the nation. This is just another chapter."

Crowds chanted "The people united will never be divided" in Foley Square.

Protester Han Shan, 39, left his job to work on the movement full time. He was at the park helping get out media equipment and supplies as the eviction took place and then moved one block away to "bear witness."

PhotoBlog: Occupy Wall Street

"I think obviously people are angry. We see like thousands ... of police amassing around a peaceful protest," he told msnbc.com.

"It's one night in what is a growing movement ... this is a movement now that is much, much larger than one square in downtown Manhattan," Shan added. "We've seen sweeps of occupations in Oakland and Denver and other places, but I don't think that it's going to affect the momentum of this movement."

Police move across U.S.
The New York eviction followed similar action in Atlanta, Portland and Salt Lake City, but unlike action in Oakland — where police used tear gas and stun grenades — NYPD said most protesters left peacefully.

A Bloomberg News report Monday stated that mayors across the country ordered police to shut down camps, arguing they had deteriorated from a protest against income inequality into a backdrop for crime and violence.

Video: Occupy London faces eviction

Elsewhere:

In Seattle, police officers on mountain bikes pepper-sprayed protesters who mobbed them in the Belltown neighborhood Tuesday evening, NBC station KING reported. At least one woman was arrested as protesters chanted "Whose streets? Our streets."

In London, authorities said on Tuesday 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 church for a month in a protest inspired by New York's Occupy Wall Street.

The cathedral and local authority the City of London Corporation suspended legal action to remove the camp two weeks ago, and offered the protesters a deal to allow them to stay until the new year if they then agreed to leave.

The London protest started Oct. 15 after the demonstrators were prevented from remaining on private property near the London Stock Exchange, their original target.

In Toronto, officials have told Occupy Toronto protesters they must leave their encampment in a downtown park or risk forcible removal, raising the possibility of a police-backed eviction similar to the one in New York's Zuccotti Park earlier on Tuesday.

"The city recognizes the rights of Canadians to gather and protest. However, the city has determined that it cannot allow the current use of St. James Park to continue," read eviction notices affixed by bylaw officers to tents in the park, which has been the home of the Toronto Occupy movement.

Protesters first set up tents in the downtown park one month ago as the Occupy movement - conceived by Canadian magazine Adbusters and put into action in New York's Zuccotti Park - went global.

In Berkeley, Calif., anti-Wall Street activists began converging Tuesday on the University of California for a day of protests and another attempt to establish an Occupy Cal camp after a failed attempt last week led to dozens of arrests.

ReFund California, a coalition of student group and university employee unions, called for a campus strike, and protesters planned a rally and march to protest banks and budget cuts to higher education.

Dozens of students and faculty took part in morning teach-ins at an outdoor plaza with banners reading "stop the cuts" and "educate the state."

"If the only people who can come here in the future are those who have money, it's going to hurt everyone's educational experience," said Daniel Rodriguez, 28, a graduate student who was conducting an introductory Spanish language class outside.

The Berkeley protesters will be joined by Occupy Oakland activists who said they would march to the campus in the afternoon.

The Occupy Wall Street protest also reached one of Washington state's most remote towns.

The Peninsula Daily News reported that 17 people held an Occupy Forks protest on Saturday, rallying outside a Bank of America branch, the only corporate presence the protesters could find in the town.

Forks is better known to the world as the fictional home of the characters of the vampire teen series "Twilight." It is about a four-hour trip from Seattle, on the western side of the Olympic Peninsula.

Occupy Forks organizer Patt Doyle says the turnout of 17 people was better than expected. It rained heavily on Saturday.

The newspaper reports that the Bank of America branch is slated to be closed in January, and its employees will be laid off.

NBC News' Jonathan Dienst, msnbc.com's Miranda Leitsinger and Bob Sullivan, and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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