NYPD Clears Zuccotti Park, Dumps Protesters' Tents
New York police cleared Zuccotti Park, where protestors from the Occupy Wall Street movement have been camped for weeks, in the early hours of Tuesday.
The police action started at around 1 a.m. New York time, and before 4 a.m., city sanitation workers had completely cleared the park of tents. A recorded message from an NYPD vehicle kept repeating that protesters had to vacate the park "temporarily."
Streets in New York's financial district were being reopened Tuesday morning as workers in the financial district were beginning to arrive in commuter buses. Sanitation workers were hosing down Zucotti Park.
Earlier, New York sanitation workers threw protesters' makeshift camps into a Dumpster while police told protesters that they could return to the park.
One protester told CNBC that police subsequently told protesters that they could not return to the park, which had been categorized as a "frozen zone."
Mayor Michael Bloomberg said protesters could use the park but must follow the rules — which do not allow for tents and sleeping bags, regulations that essentially make Zuccotti off limits for the prolonged encampment staged by the protesters.
"The law that created Zuccotti Park required that it be open for the public to enjoy for passive recreation 24 hours a day," Bloomberg said in a statement. "Ever since the occupation began, that law has not been complied with, as the park has been taken over by protestors, making it unavailable to anyone else."
Garbage trucks hauled protesters' belongings away form the scene.
Notices were handed out to protestors on behalf of Brookfield Office Properties, the owner of the park, and the City of New York, requiring them to immediately remove tents, sleeping bags and tarps. The notice said the continued occupation of the park presented an increased health and fire safety risk to the protesters and the wider community.
"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," Bloomberg said.
The mayor said the protesters now "will have to occupy the space with the power of their arguments."
In an interview with CNBC, one angry protester said she was never given notice and that her personal belongings were taken away.
New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly was on the scene surveying the situation.
The first protesters set up sleeping bags and blankets in Zuccotti Park on September 17, and their numbers rapidly swelled in the following weeks. Tents appeared in the park and it was estimated that it sheltered around 200 protesters.
Around 70 people were arrested.
Protesters said their movement will endure despite the eviction.
"You can't evict an idea whose time has come," Occupy Wall Street said in a statement on its Web site.
"This burgeoning movement is more than a protest, more than an occupation, and more than any tactic," it wrote.
When asked what Tuesday's early-morning events meant for a rally planned for Thursday, one protester said, "It will only be that much stronger."
One financial district worker hurrying to work Tuesday morning said "it's about time" when asked about the overnight eviction.
The demonstration, which also became a tourist attraction for New York, triggered similar ones in the U.S. and abroad. In London, dozens of protestors have been sleeping in tents in front of St. Paul's Cathedral for weeks.
The Occupy London Stock Exchange movement said on its Twitter feed that it would organize a protest at the US embassy in London at 3 pm local time (10 am New York time) in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street.