Less than two dozen Occupy Wall Street protesters stayed overnight on Wednesday in a downtown park that had been home to hundreds before the city cleared the site and banned tents, sleeping bags and lying down.
A pre-dawn police raid on Tuesday reduced the contingent to its smallest since the movement started two months ago — days before it planned to launch a major new demonstration outside the New York Stock Exchange on Thursday.
The slim numbers left some at Zuccotti Park disillusioned while others weighed the future of what has become a national protest movement against economic inequality and Wall Street greed. Similar raids have broken up protests in Denver, Oakland and other US cities.
“We’re going to occupy this park for a long time,” vowed Jason Holmza (30) of Washington State. “Right now we’ve got to figure out where to turn our attention to.”
Demonstrators have occupied the park since September 17 to protest what they see as an unjust economic system that favours the wealthiest 1% at a time of persistently high unemployment. They also decry a political system that bailed out banks after reckless lending sparked the financial crisis.
“I was dismayed by the number of people who stayed,” said Sam DeLily (23) from the New York borough of Queens. “I was disappointed that more people didn’t realize we’d need a show of support last night more than ever.”
Protesters who held out through the night said they were roused by officials when they lay down to rest.
“They woke us when we tried to sleep,” DeLily said. “It wasn’t 100% consistent. Some [people] got an hour, some got two minutes.”
“Sounds like a crime. Attempted sleep,” said Joe Diamond (28) of Brooklyn, another man who braved the granite benches.
Hundreds of baton-wielding police raided the square-block park early Tuesday morning, removing tents, tarpaulins, outdoor furniture, mattresses and signs, arresting 147 people.
Police allowed protesters back in 16 hours later after a New York judge found that new rules banning tents, sleeping bags and lying down were legal.
A large gathering occupied the park until about 1am, then mostly dispersed.
The park is privately owned but remains open to the public 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Following the eviction, members of the movement gathered on the edge of nearby Chinatown, where a group of interfaith leaders called on churches, synagogues and other houses of worship to take in protesters displaced by the court order.
Evictions come to London
London authorities said Wednesday they have served eviction notices on anti-capitalist protesters camped outside St Paul’s Cathedral, telling them to pack up within 24 hours.
“We can confirm that this step has happened,” a spokesperson for the City of London Corporation told Agence France-Presse when asked whether the notices had been served, after a similar New York protest camp was torn down by police this week.
The corporation, which is the local authority for London’s financial district, had announced on Tuesday that it was restarting legal action against the protesters, having earlier halted it for two weeks.
It said in a statement that it would serve a “notice to those with tents and equipment on the highway near St Paul’s asking them to move these items within 24 hours”, and that it would take them to the High Court if they refused.
The protesters confirmed that they had received the eviction notices.
“We have been given notices. Our legal team is in place to consider what the Corporation of London says”, Ronan McNeor, a spokesperson for the Occupy London Stock Exchange protest movement, told AFP.
The protest camp consisting of dozens of tents has been pitched outside historic St Paul’s since October 15. — AFP, Reuters