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Occupy roundup: Legal action and a surprise eviction

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 11:53 AM EST, Tue November 15, 2011
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • London authorities resume legal action to remove protesters by St. Paul's Cathedral
  • Protesters in Denver say police do not need to "baby-sit" them
  • Police moved in to New York's Zuccotti Park, the birthplace of the movement
  • Oakland says the Occupy protests have cost the city $2.4 million

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(CNN) -- What started as the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York in September has spread across major cities worldwide as a call to action against unequal distribution of wealth.

Here is a roundup of some of the movement's recent developments.

LONDON

Authorities in London voted Tuesday to resume legal action to clear tents set up by Occupy protesters on public roads outside St. Paul's Cathedral, in the heart of the city's financial district.

The City of London Corporation, which runs the financial district, called a temporary halt to legal action two weeks ago while it pursued talks with the activists on how to limit the size of the camp and set an end date for the protest.

But after those talks "got nowhere," the body now believes legal action is necessary to ensure highway safety and meet the needs of local businesses, policy chairman Stuart Fraser said.

"Sadly, now they have rejected a reasonable offer to let them stay until the New Year, it's got to be the courts," he said in a statement, referring to the protesters.

"We'd still like to sort this without court action but from now on we will have to have any talks in parallel with court action -- not instead."

Many of the tents set up by the Occupy activists are on what the corporation designates as public highway.

A letter has been sent to lawyers acting for some of the protesters, Fraser said, and a notice is likely to be sent Wednesday to those staying in tents.

"It will clearly take time but we are determined to see this through," he said.

"We are disappointed that they have decided to break off the process of dialogue," a post on the Occupy LSX (London Stock Exchange) Twitter account said.

"We have a great legal team in place and are not overly concerned," a tweet said.

The tent city was set up outside the centuries-old cathedral last month, causing it to close for a week. St. Paul's suspended its own legal action against the activists after a number of senior cathedral figures resigned over the threat to evict them.

Meanwhile, a small number of demonstrators gathered by the U.S. Embassy in London to protest the eviction of Occupy activists from Zuccotti Park in New York early Tuesday.

CHAPEL HILL, NORTH CAROLINA

Police in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, who have come under fire for a weekend raid where officers in riot gear used semi-automatic weapons to remove squatters, said Monday the use of force was justified.

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Police Chief Chris Blue told the town council that about 70 people had occupied the vacant building Saturday night, some of whom had masks on and distributed literature "including information on how many people it takes to flip over a police car."

Officers waited a day and moved in. Seven people were arrested Sunday. No weapons were found inside the building, according to CNN affiliate WRAL.

"We didn't know what we were walking into," Blue told the council.

Images from the raid have riled many in the traditionally liberal town. Some showed police pointing guns at protesters and pinning them on the ground.

"They're not the images that we or anybody in this community, I believe, wants to see," Blue said.

Among those cuffed and detained was Katelyn Ferral, a reporter with the News & Observer.

"They told me to get on the ground and spread my arms out. And so I did that," she told WRAL.

Earlier Monday, Blue and Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt appeared at a news conference where they were repeatedly heckled and booed by Occupy supporters who accused officers of excessive force.

When the mayor asked for respect, one man in the audience shouted, "You put a gun in someone's face, that is not respect, is it?"

Blue said he will review the use of force.

"But we believe our response was the appropriate measured response to a set of unknown risks," he told the council, according to WRAL.

DENVER

Denver police estimate they've arrested 84 protesters since the middle of October, the department told CNN affiliate KUSA. In addition, the city has spent $365,000 in the first two weeks of October dealing with the protests, and officials expected to have an updated tally by the end of the week, the station reported.

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"Dealing with an ongoing situation like Occupy Denver does create some staffing challenges for us," John White, spokesman for Denver police, told the station. "We have officers who have to respond from other districts. That obviously leaves a need in the other districts."

But protesters told the station that police did not need to "baby-sit" them and the presence of officers exacerbated tensions.

At Civic Center Park on Monday, protesters told 9NEWS police should not be "baby-sitting" them.

"Every time there is a march, every time there is a protest it is always peaceful and nonviolent," protester Jason Ball told the station. "The times the tensions escalate, people become upset and (the time) there starts to become problems are when riot police shows up."

Over the weekend, Denver police arrested 20 people amid scuffles that each side blamed on the other.

NEW YORK

A New York judge issued an order Tuesday morning allowing Occupy Wall Street protesters to return to Zuccotti Park, just hours after scores of police in riot gear ordered them out and tore down their tents.

The order from New York Supreme Court Judge Lucy Billings allows protesters to bring tents and other equipment back into the privately owned park where the now-global Occupy movement began.

Police, however, did not immediately let them in.

Soon after the ruling, a large group of demonstrators -- some of them apparently holding the court documents -- marched back to Zuccotti Park and presented the documents to police.

At least two people were seen jumping over a metal barricade before they were forcibly removed by authorities.

Video of the park showed security officers picking up one protester and tossing the individual over the fence.

Since the protests began in September, the encampment at the park had taken on an air of permanency, with tents covering the public plaza from one end to the other. Protesters said they were there for the long haul.

Last month, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg had ordered protesters to vacate the park so it could be cleaned, but the park's owner, Brookfield Office Properties, changed its mind after it said it was "inundated" with calls.

The Tuesday morning eviction comes ahead of a plan by the protesters to "shut down" Wall Street on Thursday -- to mark the two-month anniversary of their movement.

OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA

Occupy Oakland has cost the city $2.4 million, with about half of it spent on overtime costs for police and public works personnel, a statement from the city's Emergency Operations Center said Monday.

Early Monday, police in riot gear moved into the Occupy encampment at Frank Ogawa Plaza near City Hall and tore down tents. Officers made 33 arrests, the operations center said.

By late Monday, crews had removed more than 27.8 tons of debris and 8.2 tons of green waste.

City officials will enforce a ban on camping in the park with an around-the-clock police presence. But Interim Police Chief Howard Jordan said peaceful demonstrators would be allowed to remain at the site around the clock, if they wished, so long as they don't bring tents, sleeping bags or other "lodging equipment."

The plaza was one of two Occupy camps in the city. The other, at Snow Park, remained standing. Jordan said police would not move against that camp on Monday, but added it could be dismantled later.

"The encampment became a place where we had repeated violence and this week a murder. We had to bring the camp to an end before more people were hurt," Mayor Jean Quan said.

The decision to clear the plaza prompted a longtime friend of Quan's to resign.

"No longer Mayor Quan's legal advisor. Resigned at 2 am. Support Occupy Oakland, not the 1% and its government facilitators," attorney Dan Siegel said in a post, which Siegel confirmed to CNN was accurate.

City spokeswoman Susan Piper described Siegel as a "volunteer adviser."

PHILADELPHIA

Occupy supporters held a Monday afternoon news conference to respond to Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, who said the nature of the movement has changed and that the city was running out of patience.

A woman reported she was sexually assaulted Saturday night in a tent at the encampment, Nutter said. And "we're seeing serious health and safety issues playing out on an almost daily basis," he said.

At the Monday news conference, Occupy supporters said it was the city that was trying to force a violent showdown.

"We believe that the cynical use of sexual violence and health concerns are opportunistic ways for the mayor to ... attack our movement," said one protester, according to CNN affiliate WPVI.

Protesters are also blocking a planned $50 million renovation at Dilworth Plaza, where they are camping, threatening jobs of workers on the project, Nutter said.

On Friday, the movement voted to stay put rather than move across to the street to the Municipal Services building because participants say they didn't receive all the information they requested from the city regarding the move.

"We weren't able to make the decision because we didn't have the information," protester Jody Dodd said, according to WPVI.

CNN's Marina Landis and Erin McLaughlin contributed to this report

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