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In a surprise crackdown, New York on Tuesday cleared Occupy Wall Street protesters from Zuccotti Park.
On Tuesday morning, before dawn, police in New York began clearing Occupy Wall Street protesters from Zuccotti Park, and dismantling tents. The judge ruled to uphold New York's decision to keep the park free of tents and sleeping bags.
Activists at the two-month-old camp were told the park would be “cleared and restored” before sunrise – and that anyone who did not comply would be arrested, The New York Times reported.
According to the Washington Post, more than 200 people were arrested overnight and into the morning. These included protesters who had chained themselves together in the park.
Among those arrested Tuesday were four journalists, the Times' City Room blog reported. The journalists included an Associated Press reporter and photographer, Daily News reporter and DNAInfo photographer.
In a Twitter post, the office of Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the protesters could return to the park once it was cleared of tents and tarpaulins.
The tweet said: “Occupants of Zuccotti should temporarily leave and remove tents and tarps.”
Bloomberg said the park was cleared out and cleaned up in the middle of the night “to reduce the risk of confrontation,” the Washington Post reported.
Reports said leaflets were handed out informing protesters not to bring camping equipment when they returned.
However, according to the Washington Post, the National Lawyers Guild says it has obtained a court order that allows protesters to return with tents. The injunction prevents the city from enforcing park rules on Occupy Wall Street protesters.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the city knew about the court order but they had not seen it and would go to court to fight it, the Washington Post reported.
Bloomberg said that while the city wants to protect people’s rights, if a choice must be made, they will protect public safety.
A live stream from the protesters’ website showed the police operation taking place in real time.
Occupy Wall Street – established in September to protest against economic greed – has inspired dozens of similar protests around the world.
Tuesday’s action comes after the camp in Oakland, California, was cleared on Monday.
In Zuccotti Park, most of the several hundred protesters had left by 2am, but a small crowd at the center remained, surrounded by police wearing helmets but not full riot gear, Agence France Presse reported.
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In the central area, dubbed “the kitchen," protesters began building barricades with pieces of wood and tables.
As police in vans moved into the one-square-block park, dozens of protesters shouted “No retreat, no surrender," and some people were arrested, The Times reported.
Local businesses have been pressuring city authorities to close the camp as the movement nears its two-month anniversary on Thursday.
It also comes after a small demonstration at City Hall on Monday by opponents of Occupy Wall Street.