Atlanta police evict protesters, arrest 53

ATLANTA Wed Oct 26, 2011 9:22am EDT

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ATLANTA (Reuters) Atlanta police early on Wednesday evicted dozens of protesters from a downtown park and arrested 53 people who refused to leave the demonstration against economic inequality.

Police entered Woodruff Park just after midnight following two warnings to demonstrators that they would have to leave, Mayor Kasim Reed said in a statement. He called the demonstrators "increasingly aggressive" but said the arrests were made without incident.

The action came as authorities around the country begin to lose patience with the protests, now in their second month. Demonstrators scuffled with police in Oakland on Tuesday evening after their camp near city hall was cleared out.

Atlanta demonstrators had been camping in the park for nearly three weeks. Reed last week said the protesters could stay in the park at least until November 7, but said he changed his mind last weekend after the protesters tried to hold a concert without plans for adequate security or crowd control. The mayor said he had other safety concerns as the number of tents in the park increased to more than 75.

"Last week, demonstrators inserted wire hangers into electrical sockets to create additional power sources," Reed said in his statement. "A number of other fire code violations occurred, including repeated storage of propane heaters and twenty-gallon propane tanks inside tents."

Among those arrested on Wednesday was a Georgia state senator, Vincent Fort, protesters said in a news release. The group vowed to continue its protest with an anti-war march Wednesday in downtown Atlanta.

Sara Amis, a spokeswoman for Occupy Atlanta, said Wednesday the encampment was safe.

"I think that was manufactured," she said when asked about the mayor's concerns over the safety of the demonstrators.

The protest was the Atlanta version of the movement launched more than a month ago as Occupy Wall Street in New York.

The protests focus on anger over government bailouts of big banks, persistent high unemployment and economic inequality. They have sprung up across the United States and in other countries.

Hundreds of demonstrators have been arrested in New York since the protests began. There have also been numerous arrests in other cities.

(Editing by Greg McCune)

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