NY protesters claim victory as eviction postponed
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Last Updated: Saturday, October 15, 2011, 00:03
New York: Anti-Wall Street protesters declared victory on Friday after New York authorities at the last minute put off plans to evacuate the park turned tent city that they have been occupying for the last month.

But at least three people were arrested close to the square when scuffles broke out with police, a news agency journalist said.

Police intervened when a group of demonstrators were walking along the road instead of on the sidewalk, which is prohibited. One of those arrested had a bloodied face.

Earlier the owners of the property suspended a request for the city to clear the square for routine cleaning and said they believed they could reach an agreement with the protesters, Deputy Mayor Cas Holloway said in a statement.

The demonstrators had vowed a pre-dawn show of strength to prevent their eviction from the makeshift base that is the symbolic epicentre of their fledgling but growing movement which has spread nationwide in recent weeks.

But Brookfield Properties, which owns the site, "believes they can work out an arrangement with the protesters that will ensure the park remains clean, safe, available for public use," Holloway added.

Thousands of protesters, many of whom stayed up all night girding for a showdown with police, hailed the decision as a victory for their demonstrations against alleged corporate greed and corruption.

"People united will never be defeated!" they chanted after word of the decision spread through the camp in Zuccotti Park, located in the heart of the financial district, which the protesters have renamed "Liberty Plaza."

"It is a big victory for us," said Senia Barragan, a spokeswoman for the demonstrators, adding the movement had been helped by the large numbers who came out to support them. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg had visited the area late Wednesday to reassure the protesters that demonstrations could continue after the clean-up.

But New York police chief Ray Kelly had hinted at a showdown when he indicated the protesters would no longer be allowed to carry on camping out.

"I was ready to be arrested, but I'm going to go to work," said Zach Loeb, a 27-year-old part-time librarian, who has helped set up a library in the park.

"I feel thrilled, energized, but my guard is not down," he added.

A small band of protesters began camping out in Zuccotti Park on September 17, preaching an anti-capitalist message that has resonated in an America gripped by high unemployment and struggling to emerge from a painful recession.

Sister protest groups have sprung up in other major US cities, and former American vice president turned climate-change activist Al Gore on Thursday became the latest high-profile name to throw his support behind the movement.

Up to 600 protesters have been camping out overnight in sleeping bags and tents in the New York park, and the occupation shows signs of permanence: food stalls have sprung up, an infirmary, an information desk, as well as the library.

But protesters have no toilet facilities of their own and depend on local restaurants. As their numbers have grown so have the reports of locals complaining about people urinating in the streets.

The demonstrators, who deny there are any health issues and say they tidy the square daily, had conducted a thorough clean-up on Thursday to try to forestall intervention by the authorities. Some of their belongings had been removed and flowers replanted in the beds.

The nationwide activist movement has already had several run-ins with the authorities.

At the end of last month more than 700 protesters were arrested for blocking weekend traffic on the Brooklyn Bridge in New York.

In Boston some 700 police launched the biggest crackdown so far on the movement in the early hours of Tuesday morning, descending on parks to arrest more than 100 protesters for unlawful assembly.

A poll by Time magazine showed 54 percent of Americans had a somewhat favorable or very favorable view of the protesters, while 23 percent disapproved and the remaining 24 percent of those surveyed were undecided.


First Published: Saturday, October 15, 2011, 00:03

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