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US police sweep out Occupy Wall Street camp, with a judge’s backing

By Stephen Foley in New York

A judge has ruled that the dismantling of the Occupy Wall Street encampment in a pre-dawn raid by police was legal — meaning protesters will not be allowed to set up camp again.

Supreme Court Justice Michael Stallman last night upheld the city’s move, saying that the protesters’ constitutional rights don't entitle them to camp out indefinitely in the plaza.

Zuccotti Park had become the epicentre of a movement protesting against corporate greed and economic inequality

In a swoop executed with military precision in the dead of the previous night, police had moved in to demolish the two-month-old protest camp, sparking a day of confrontations with angry demonstrators in the US financial capital.

Officers arrived without warning at 1am and demanded protesters leave Zuccotti Park with the tents, tarpaulins and other belongings that threatened to become a permanent fixture.

While some residents of the camp left of their own accord, several dozen chained themselves together and to trees and were forcibly removed.

Several hundred more people, summoned by social networks, joined them in the streets throughout the night, but the New York Police Department blocked off access to the area. In less than three hours the police had cleared the park completely and steam-cleaned the area.

Over 200 people were arrested during the operation and in the subsequent hours, as displaced protesters assembled, marched or ran through the nearby streets. By mid-morning scores of people attempted to set up an alternative camp on a disused lot 10 minutes north of Zuccotti Park, but more than 100 police officers moved in to arrest them.

And last night the park was once again the focal point of protesters' anger. A ring of police in riot gear stood guard around the perimeter of the empty park while hundreds of people gathered outside chanting slogans demanding to be let back in.

The tense stand-off came as the legal drama played out in a nearby courthouse over whether New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg had acted illegally in ordering the demolition, and would have to allow the protesters to return.

Mr Bloomberg said that the New York camp had become too unsanitary and dangerous for people to keep living there and had to be removed.

Following the lead from New York, the City of London Corporation yesterday relaunched legal action against protesters camped outside St Paul's Cathedral. The Corporation previously offered to give the protesters until the new year to leave.

Stuart Fraser, policy chairman at the Corporation, said: “We'd still like to sort this without court action but from now on we will have to have any talks in parallel with court action — not instead.”

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