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Ronal Serpas, New Orleans Police Chief: Most Occupy New Orleans Protesters Leaving Peacefully

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OCCUPY NEW ORLEANS
AP

By Kevin McGilll, ASSOCIATED PRESS

NEW ORLEANS -- Scores of police officers marched into an encampment of protesters and homeless people across from City Hall before dawn Tuesday, forcing the dozens of occupants out and removing tents in a peaceful eviction that drew loud, sometimes raucous complaints but did not result in violence.

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"You people are treasonous!" one protester shouted as more than 100 uniformed officers moved through the makeshift camp grounds at Duncan Plaza, a city block of green space that has been home to the loosely knit Occupy New Orleans movement since Oct. 6.

City officials had accommodated the protesters for weeks, allowing the tents - some nothing more than tarps or sheets of plastic thrown over ropes strung between trees - to stand unmolested and even providing portable toilets. But New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu had warned Friday that it was time for the around-the-clock encampment to end. Police had been distributing flyers warning that the park could no longer be used as a camp ground and, on Tuesday around 4 a.m., began ringing the park with barricades in preparation for the eviction.

"This was a display of a very well organized, well thought out, and now well executed effort," Landrieu said at a Tuesday morning news conference.

Landrieu said police and representatives of the city had gone through the camp several times a day since Friday telling people they must leave and handing out flyers telling them to leave.

He thanked the police and the protestors for the peaceful resolution.

"You can see from the way this was conducted it was very different from what happened around the country," Landrieu said, referring to recent violent clashes between police and protesters in other cities.

The move by police came ahead of a hearing later Tuesday during which a federal judge was to consider a request by protesters to issue a temporary restraining order blocking the city from evicting them and an injunction that would allow them to continue their around-the-clock occupation.

Police could be seen escorting some of the protesters out of the camp. One protester was arrested for failure to leave and constructing on a public space, police chief Ronal Serpas said. The man told police he wanted to be arrested, Serpas said. Another man was taken to the hospital complaining of chest pains.

There were no signs of the violence that has accompanied other, larger evictions in other cities where the offshoots of the Occupy Wall Street movement have taken hold.

"I know that they think they're doing a good thing because they're not in here beating us with nightsticks or spraying us with mace. But wrong is still wrong," said Jasmine Bailey, a spokeswoman for the protesters.

But Serpas and other city officials said the protesters were violating the law with makeshift structures in the park and by staying in the park after 10:30 at night.

Once the park is cleaned, Landrieu said protestors were welcome to use it during park hours.

"They can come protest at City Hall if they want to," he said. "They don't have to go across the street."

The protesters' lawsuit says evicting them from the park would violate their constitutional right to peaceful assembly and freedom of speech.

At least 43 homeless people were transported from the park to a facility where their needs could be evaluated and they could be placed in housing, said Stacy Horn Kotch, director of homeless services for the city. Many chose to avoid official offers of help, however.

"I'll take my chances out here," said Pete Frazer, 43. "I don't trust `the man.'"

The encampment - dozens of tents, an information booth and a covered area where food was served - dates back to an Oct. 6 "Occupy New Orleans" march that drew well over 200 marchers representing a variety of causes. They said they were protesting proposed cuts in Medicare spending, the war in Afghanistan, perceived corporate greed and a variety of other social ills in a spin-off of New York's Occupy Wall Street demonstrations.

Although police in body armor and helmets were on a side street, out of sight of the encampment, the officers moving through the park before sunup Tuesday were in regular uniforms with holstered sidearms. One had a bullhorn and was ordering the park's occupants to clear out. Once the occupants were out, trash trucks moved in to start clearing debris.

Protester Verrick Bills of New Orleans said there was no violence or undue force used by police in the eviction. "They have been very polite, very nice," Bills said.

___

Associated Press writer Mary Foster contributed to this report.

Via HuffPost Miami:

When an Occupy Miami member offered evicted protestors vacant apartments in a building he owns in Downtown Miami's Overtown neighborhood, it seemed like the perfect solution: the 'Peace City' space would provide headquarters for the movement and shelter a small faction of the group's most vulnerable members. But it hasn't gone well. Other tenants say the building has become a cesspool of drug use and violence while non-resident Occupy Miami members are trying to distance themselves from the 'radicals' -- all while the two factions are wrestling for control over Occupy Miami's social media sites and future plans.

From the Miami New Times:

The feud between the Overtown occupiers and more mainstream members has only gotten worse. The two factions are now battling for control of Occupy Miami's social media sites. The movement's main Twitter account recently announced it had been "hijacked by a small, non-consensus group of radical members." The Occupy Miami Facebook page was also temporarily hacked by someone inside Peace City. Meanwhile, the Overtown occupation is slowly driving away more moderate members.

"This is a black eye on the Occupy movement," says Shannon Reaze, an Overtown community organizer and Occupy Miami supporter who is now helping tenants move out of Paz's building. "The violence and drugs going on here are way outside of what I thought Occupy stood for. This place is destabilized."

...The supposedly hard-core activists here spend their days drinking and getting high. And as Peace City devolves into lawlessness, the most committed occupiers are leaving. Local landowners and politicians want the place shut down, while cops are suspicious. Yet as long as Paz wants the protesters around, nothing short of a demolition order can keep them out.

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Via HuffPost DC:

WASHINGTON -- Occupy DC has a new lawsuit involving tents on its hands. But it doesn't involve temporary structures in McPherson Square.

Two protesters arrested during a February action outside Merrill Lynch's offices on 15th Street NW near McPherson Square have filed suit against the Metropolitan Police Department, Legal Times reports. (Read the complaint here.)

The plaintiffs, Samuel Dukore and Kelly Canavan, were part of a "targeted occupation" of Merrill Lynch on Feb. 13 where protesters were raising awareness about Merrill Lynch's reportedly close ties with Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.). Issa, for his part, claims that the reports of these close ties are "wildly inaccurate."

Full story here.

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OWS reports via its website:

After the brutal attack on the attempted re-occupation of Liberty Square by NYPD on the 6-month anniversary of #OWS, a number of Occupiers have relocated their base of occupation to Union Square in midtown Manhattan, a point of convergence for several #OWS protests over the past 6 months.

According to reports on the ground, several dozen people slept in the park after the illegal and violent raid on Liberty Square. Over 70 people remain, now on Day 3. Although tents and tables are still banned, Occupiers have brought blankets and sleeping gear. Many are calling it ¨the new Occupation.¨ In addition to holding General Assemblies, Union Square Occupiers are providing vital jail support for those arrested on #M17 as they are released from NYPD custody. So far, the NYPD has made no attempt to remove Occupiers or prevent them from sleeping in the park.

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Occupy Long Beach is defending the mother's home. For more information, click here.

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The woman had the apparent seizure has been identified by the New York Observer as Cecily McMillan:

Cecily McMillan, an Occupy Wall Street activist once profiled in Rolling Stone, suffered a seizure Saturday night during protest action near Zuccotti Park. Many on-scene reported Ms. McMillan had trouble breathing after she was tackled and handcuffed by law enforcement.

A video uploaded to Youtube late Saturday night purports to show the attack. Two women can be heard commenting, “There’s Cecily,” then there is confusion as the police clearly perform a violent take-down on someone in the crowd.

According to Jeff Sharlet’s November, 2011 article about the Occupy Movement, this may be Ms. McMillan’s second violent encounter with police.

To read the full story, go here.

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Cops caught on video about 10 seconds in taking down the woman who had the apparent seizure:

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Watch video from inside Zuccotti Park as police moved in late last night:

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The paper reports from last night's chaos at Zuccotti Park:

At one point, a woman who appeared to be suffering from seizures flopped on the ground in handcuffs as bystanders shouted for the police to remove the cuffs and provide medical attention. For several minutes the woman lay on the ground as onlookers made increasingly agonized demands until an ambulance arrived and the woman was placed inside.

By 12:20 a.m., a line of officers pushed against some of the remaining protesters, forcing them south on Broadway, at times swinging batons and shoving people to the ground.

Kobi Skolnick, 30, said that officers pushed him in several directions and that as he tried to walk away, he was struck from behind in the neck. “One of the police ran and hit me with a baton,” he said.

To read the full story, go here.

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@ Greg_Palast : Our photographer ZD Roberts beaten @OWS Zucotti Park by cops. Thrown to ground, hair grabbd, hit with clubs while yelling, I'M PRESS PRESS!

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@ macfathom : Doubling east on Barclay, and now the ragged front of the march is at City Hall. #OWS

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@ LuddoftheFuture : girl in the street having a seizure and the cops have her in handcuffs. can this get any worse (live at http://t.co/4pLyy3gP)

Activists cry out for paramedics. The woman is limp on the ground. "Come on you violent bastards where's the paramedics?"

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@ jeffrae : March is heading north up broadway #ows #occupywallstreet

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@ macfathom : Dozens of arrests, many cuffed and sitting on broadway waiting for their ride to jail. #OWS

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@ RDevro : Police are barricading the park. It's cleared. I witnessed countless violent arrests. No way to estimate numbers.

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@ troutish : Protesters being dragged out by the head at #OWS #Zucotti Park http://t.co/qomhKkrA

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Cops pulling apart human chains. There are shouts for mic checks. Now, chants start forming. "The NYPD are sweeping through," says Tim on the live stream.

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@ ANIMALNewYork : Police are moving in. It's chaos.

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@ ANIMALNewYork : NYPD just made an announcement that Brookfield has to "clean the park" and Liberty Plaza is officially "closed."

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@ OccupyWallStNYC : Bagpipers just started marching into the park bringing the party mood with them, NYPD arrested one of them, and things got real heated. #OWS

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@ JackieHRye : NYPD just "destroyed" the tent in Zuccotti Park, Occupiers call for its re-building. Marching band also going through the park. #OWS

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@ RDevro : The tent in the middle of the park continues to fill with people planning to stay the night. Lots of energy here.

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Activists ask for more room as the tent is growing, expanding.

"It looks like a floating tent." -- as Tim on his live stream.

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Owly Images

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@ OccupyWallStNYC : .@justawall is leading us in a song! "Hit the road, banks! And don't ya come back no more no more no more no more!" #OWS

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Activists have assembled make-shift, cardboard sleeping areas inside Zuccotti Park. The cardboard is joined by a large green tarp.

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@ RDevro : A tarp is going up in Zuccotti as protesters march around the park chant-dancing. #m17 http://t.co/rJfP3GF9

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Around the Web

Video: NOPD Chief Serpas stops by #OccupyNOLA | Blog of New ...

NOPD hands out (a very polite) eviction flier to #Occupy protestors ...

#Occupy protestors: "We have a right to be here" | Blog of New Orleans

IG letter says Serpas did nothing wrong | Blog of New Orleans

WWNO News Reports

Police: Most Occupy New Orleans protesters leaving