BOSTON (Reuters) - Police cleared an anti-Wall Street tent camp in Boston’s financial district early on Saturday morning, arresting 47 people in one of the few remaining major U.S. cities where authorities had not yet evicted demonstrators.
In a mostly peaceful action, more than 100 police officers swept into the area before sunrise, when many of the campers were asleep, and sealed off the streets. Boston police said 33 men and 14 women were arrested, mostly for trespassing.
The end of the encampment in a small grassy area across from the Boston Federal Reserve Bank building and the city’s main train station, came without the violence seen in some cities during the three-month protest movement, which started with Occupy Wall Street in New York.
Boston police did not wear helmets or riot gear and did not draw weapons on protesters, many of whom sat arm-in-arm. Other campers fled the scene during the raid.
At a news conference at police headquarters on Saturday, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino praised the work of the officers and restraint of the protesters during the clearing of the camp.
“In the interest of public safety ultimately we had to act,” Menino said, adding the city would stop any attempt by protesters to set up camp elsewhere in the city. He said police swept in during the early morning hours because there were fewer protesters there at the time.
“This is not over, it’s just changing, ” Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis said of the movement. Police will monitor a planned evening general assembly by protesters on the Boston Common, a green space of about 50 acres located in the heart of the city.
Davis said overtime costs for the police force staffing the protest over the last two months were nearing a million dollars.
Crews working to clean up the Dewey Square park will be working on the soil, putting new sod on the grassy patches and repairing an irrigation system. Officials hope to have the park reopened to the public by the end of the week.
Much of the tightly-packed Occupy tent city had been dismantled before a Thursday night deadline set by Menino. The mayor had ordered the protesters to clear the camp after a judge ruled they did not have the right to occupy the square.
As dawn broke in Boston, tents, furniture and other debris were being dismantled and thrown into garbage trucks. Crews were raking, clearing debris from flower beds and power-washing graffiti from sidewalks and an adjacent building.
In a joint statement, the Massachusetts’ chapters of the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Lawyers Guild said that while the encampment at Dewey Square may be gone for now, Occupy Boston protesters “successfully and peaceably deployed their First Amendment rights to spread their message.”
The statement said that nearly everyone in the country has now become familiar with the Occupy movement’s concern that 1 percent of citizens possess an oversized share of the nation’s wealth and an ability to “act with impunity” and ignore the needs of the other 99 percent.
“Despite today’s police action, no one can evict an idea,” the statement said.
Outside police headquarters, about a dozen protesters stood silently and held a large white sheet painted with black letters, “We’re not going anywhere.”
Reporting by Lauren Keiper and Ros Krasny; Editing by Greg McCune and Mary Wisniewski