Police forced Occupy Wall Street protesters from Zuccotti Park early Tuesday morning, sweeping them from the birthplace of a movement that inspired similar protests across the world.
Dozens were arrested, but the demonstration was far from over: Demonstrators were on the move through lower Manhattan, continuing their campaign against economic inequality and training their ire on New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who took responsibility for the decision to oust them.
The question now is the one that has followed the movement since it began: What next? Will it continue in a new location? Or could the sweep be the catalyst for the protesters to set priorities and demand for concrete changes?
The removal began soon after 1 a.m. ET. Some protesters tied themselves to trees to avoid being forced out — local station NY1 showed one woman roped to a tree wearing a gas mask — but all were removed by 4:30 a.m. ET.
The park was closed Tuesday as dozens of workers cleaned it. The Daily News reported that a judge had signed an order allowing the demonstrators to return to the park, but the mayor's office said the park would remain closed while the city clarifies the order.
The demonstrators, who vote with hand signals to avoid a hierarchy, did exactly that early Tuesday as they tried to decide where to go next, NY1 reported Tuesday.
In a statement, Bloomberg said he ordered the protesters out of the park because the law that created it required that it be open to the public 24 hours a day. He said the presence of the protesters had made it unavailable for anyone else.
"I have become increasingly concerned – as had the park’s owner, Brookfield Properties – that the occupation was coming to pose a health and fire safety hazard to the protestors and to the surrounding community," he said. But he added that "the final decision to act was mine." Related Articles: Conan Officiates a Gay Wedding as Triumph Occupies Wall Street (Video) Jay-Z to Profit From Occupy Wall Street — But Won't Share the Wealth