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Court Orders Stay of Zuccotti Park Eviction

Court Orders Stay of Zuccotti Park Eviction
MSNBC

Hundreds of police officers, some in riot gear, descended on Zuccotti
Park overnight in a surprise sweep of the Occupy Wall Street
headquarters that Mayor Bloomberg said had become an "intolerable
situation."

Hours later, a judge granted a temporary restraining order prohibiting
the city from enforcing rules of the plaza that she said were
published "after the occupation began." Bloomberg said at a City Hall
briefing that the city had planned to let people back into the park at
8 a.m. but decided to keep it closed while officials evaluated the
order.

Both sides were due in court at 11:30 a.m. See the order here.

In the overnight raid, many protesters in the two-month-old occupation
left peacefully, but some refused to go, chaining themselves to trees
and to each other. They chanted at police, "Whose park? Our park!"

All protesters were cleared from the park by 4:30 a.m. Tuesday,
according to NYPD spokesman Paul Browne. Browne said there were about
70 arrests inside the park overnight and another to 30 to 40 arrests
on Broadway as protesters tried to stop the evacuation. Among those
arrested was City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez.

Several hundred protesters gathered in nearby Foley Square, creating a
makeshift headquarters as they weighed their next move. A message on
the organizers' website urged people to meet at Canal Street at 9
a.m., promising "you can't evict an idea whose time had come."

Bloomberg said at City Hall Tuesday that he and the owners of the
plaza, Brookfield Properties, had become "increasingly concerned" that
the occupation, which has used generators and other devices to keep
warm, was beginning to pose a health and fire hazard to the
demonstrators and Lower Manhattan community. There have been reports
of scattered crime, and an EMT was injured responding to a call last
week, he noted.
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"Unfortunately, the park was becoming a place where people came not to
protest, but rather to break laws, and in some cases, to harm others,"
he said. "The majority of protesters have been peaceful and
responsible. But an unfortunate minority has not been – and as the
number of protesters has grown, this has created an intolerable
situation."

He said protesters will be welcome to use the park to protest but have
to follow the rules.

"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 temporary restraining order said the city could not evict
protesters from the park or enforce rules -- like no tents, tarps or
sleeping backs -- that were not made clear until after the occupation
began.

Before moving in to sweep the park, police handed out letters to
protesters ordering them to temporarily evacuate; campers were ordered
to remove all their tents.

Before moving in to sweep the park, police handed out letters to
protesters ordering them to temporarily evacuate; campers were ordered
to remove all their tents.

Any tents, sleeping bags or other items left behind in the park would
be brought to a sanitation garage, the letter said.

The mayor's office tweeted in the 1 a.m. hour, "Occupants of Zuccotti
should temporarily leave and remove tents and tarps. Protesters can
return after the Park is cleared."

[See NBC New York's Storify timeline of #OWS tweets here]

Even as some protesters physically locked themselves down in the park,
police moved in, working around the remaining demonstrators to break
down tents and toss them into piles. Sanitation crews then entered and
moved the items on to the sidewalk.

A recorded announcement played on loop, telling protesters they had to
temporarily vacate the park.

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly was on the scene monitoring developments.
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Outside the park, several separate smaller groups formed to march down
Broadway to try to join protesters in the park. But officers blocked
the path, resulting in some pushing and shoving.

Residents in at least one nearby building were not allowed to leave to
watch the events. Doormen were told by NYPD to lock up.

Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer told NBC New York the
overnight raid took him by surprise. He also urged police to show
restraint and asked protesters engaging in behavior that would get
them arrested.

"It was always my view that people had the right to be in the park to
exercise their right to protest. At the moment, I am encouraging both
the police and the protesters to stay calm," Stringer said. "I urge
New Yorkers to take a deep breath. Lets get all the facts before we
make a judgment."

Bloomberg last month tried to evacuate the park so that it could be
cleaned. But the cleanup was ultimately postponed when protesters
resisted, raising concerns about a showdown between police and the
thousand-plus demonstrators camped out at the park.

The mandatory evacuation Tuesday came just two days before a massive
Occupy Wall Street demonstration planned for Thursday. Demonstrators
were planning to march in front of the New York Stock Exchange
Thursday morning, get on subway trains across all five boroughs in the
afternoon, then rally near City Hall in the evening. Afterward, they
were expected to march to area bridges.

Bloomberg has recently gone back and forth between criticizing Occupy
Wall Street and defending it, saying recently that protesters were
largely law-abiding and did not bother anyone.

When he was asked Monday to address complaints of local business
owners and residents about the Occupy encampment, Bloomberg again
hedged on whether he planned to step in.

"We'll take appropriate action when it's appropriate," he said.

Occupy encampments have come under fire around the country as local
officials and residents have complained about possible health hazards
and ongoing inhabitation of parks and other public spaces.