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Eviction thins ranks of anti-Wall Street protest
November 16, 2011 / 3:26 PM / 6 years ago

Eviction thins ranks of anti-Wall Street protest

* Ban on sleeping in park reduces numbers dramatically

* Movement planning big protest at New York Stock Exchange

By Chris Francescani

NEW YORK, Nov 16 (Reuters) - Less than two dozen Occupy Wall Street protesters stayed overnight Wednesday in a downtown park that had been home to hundreds before the city cleared the site and banned tents, sleeping bags and lying down.

A predawn police raid Tuesday reduced the contingent to its smallest since the movement started two months ago, days before it planned to launch a major new demonstration outside the New York Stock Exchange on Thursday.

The slim numbers left some at Zuccotti Park disillusioned, while others weighed the future of what has become a national protest movement against economic inequality and Wall Street greed. Similar raids have broken up protests in Denver, Oakland and other U.S. cities.

“We’re going to occupy this park for a long time,” vowed Jason Holmza, 30, of Washington State. “Right now we’ve got to figure out where to turn our attention to.”

Demonstrators have occupied the park since Sept. 17 to protest what they see as an unjust economic system that favors the wealthiest 1 percent at a time of persistently high unemployment. They also decry a political system that bailed out banks after reckless lending sparked the financial crisis.

“I was dismayed by the number of people who stayed,” said Sam DeLily, 23, from the New York borough of Queens. “I was disappointed that more people didn’t realize we’d need a show of support last night more than ever.”

Protesters who held out through the night said they were roused by officials when they lay down to rest.

“They woke us when we tried to sleep,” DeLily said. “It wasn’t 100 percent consistent. Some (people) got an hour, some got two minutes.”

“Sounds like a crime. Attempted sleep,” said Joe Diamond, 28, of Brooklyn, another man who braved the granite benches.

Hundreds of baton-wielding police raided the square-block park in early Tuesday morning, removing tents, tarpaulins, outdoor furniture, mattresses and signs, arresting 147 people.

Police allowed protesters back in 16 hours later, after a New York judge found that new rules banning tents, sleeping bags and lying down were legal.

A large gathering occupied the park until about 1 a.m., then mostly dispersed.

The park is privately owned but remains open to the public 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Following the eviction, members of the movement gathered on the edge of nearby Chinatown, where a group of interfaith leaders called on churches, synagogues and other houses of worship to take in protesters displaced by the court order. (Editing by Daniel Trotta and Doina Chiacu)

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