/ 13 November 2011

US cities act against anti-Wall St protests

Anti-Wall Street protesters in several United States cities on Saturday faced orders by officials to leave their camps, as police made arrests in St. Louis, Salt Lake City and Denver.

Police arrested 27 St Louis demonstrators at a downtown plaza early on Saturday for curfew violations, authorities said.

Authorities in Salt Lake City moved to dismantle a camp at a downtown park in an operation that resulted in 15 arrests, police said. Officers began their operation after sundown. They previously told protesters to clear out of the park by then.

Protest encampments in several cities sprang up in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York to protest what demonstrators say is economic inequality and undue influence over US politics by corporate interests.

Officials in some cities have cited health and safety concerns in urging demonstrators to take down their camps.

Police in Oakland, California, the scene of previous clashes between officers and demonstrators, have urged Occupy demonstrators to leave their encampment. The mayor of Portland, Oregon, has given demonstrators until just after midnight local time (8am GMT) to leave two downtown parks.

Demonstrations in those two West Coast cities remained peaceful on Saturday.

In St Louis, the anti-Wall Street protesters offered no resistance as officers slipped on plastic handcuffs and walked them into police vans amid chants of “Our passion for freedom is stronger than your prison.”

A court loss
About 400 people gathered at the plaza near the city’s Gateway Arch landmark on Friday night despite a warning from Mayor Francis Slay they would have to leave the park.

Slay has offered to continue talks to find a permanent place for the protest.

The protesters tried to get a federal court order restraining the police from making the arrests. Those efforts fell through and the curfew, which had been enforced only once before during the 40-day-old protest, was put into effect.

The arrests occurred when the crowd had dwindled down to about 200 people, authorities said. The 27 who were arrested refused to leave.

“We believe that we should have a voice,” protester Angelo Dower said before entering the police van. “And the people that have the money have the voice.”

Some occupy participants returned to the park on Saturday afternoon.

Participants also said they would keep pursuing their case in US District Court next week. They say the First Amendment right to free speech and assembly gives them the right to stay in the park.

In Salt Lake City, police moved against a crowd estimated at 150 protesters at a downtown park and arrested those who refused to move on, as activists chanted, “This is what a police state looks like.”

“It’s just the overnight camping has become too much of a problem, and we need to deal with that and that’s all this is about,” said Salt Lake police Sergeant Shawn Josephson.

In Denver, police said they took action at a protest site on Saturday to remove items such as mattresses, cooking grills and tents that had been placed illegally on a public sidewalk. Two people were arrested, said Denver police spokesperson Sonny Jackson. – Reuters