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NEW YORK (Reuters) - A judge upheld New York City's legal justification for evicting Occupy Wall Street protesters from a park on Tuesday when police in riot gear broke up a two-month-old demonstration against economic inequality.
Protesters will be allowed to return but Justice Michael Stallman found the city, at least for now, can legally ban protesters from camping in tents and sleeping bags at the park between Wall Street and the World Trade Center under reconstruction in lower Manhattan.
Protesters occupied Zuccotti Park to protest what they see as an unjust economic system that favors the wealthiest 1 percent at a time of persistently high employment, decrying a political system that bailed out banks after reckless lending sparked the financial crisis.
The Occupy Wall Street movement triggered similar protests in cities throughout the United States and the world.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg decided the protesters had become a health and fire safety hazard and ordered police to evict them from the camp, where city officials cited reports of sexual assaults, thefts and drug dealing.
Hundreds of police stormed the camp around 1 a.m. and dismantled tents, tarpaulins, outdoor furniture, mattresses and signs, arresting 147 people, including about a dozen who had chained themselves to each other and to trees.
With the park cleared of protesters and barricades, sanitation workers dismantled tents, hauled away trash and blasted the square with water cannon, erasing odors of urine and human waste.
City officials were set to allow protesters back in without tents and sleeping bags but then it received notice of a court challenge, at which point it left the barricades up pending legal clarification.
In London, authorities said they were resuming legal action to try to shift anti-capitalism protesters who have set up camp at St Paul's Cathedral.
Toronto officials also told protesters to leave on Tuesday.
The New York eviction followed similar actions in Atlanta, Portland and Salt Lake City. Unlike in Oakland, California, where police used tear gas and stun grenades, New York police said most protesters left peacefully. (Additional reporting by Clare Baldwin; Writing by Daniel Trotta and Michelle Nichols)