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Police break up Occupy Wall Street camp in Virginia

LONDON/RICHMOND, Virginia: Police cleared out a plaza in Richmond, Virginia early Monday that had been home to Occupy Wall Street protesters, ordering out dozens of people who had encamped there since Oct. 17 and arresting those who refused to leave.

Dozens of anti-Wall Street protesters were arrested Sunday in Texas, where they clashed with police over food tables, and in Oregon, where officers dragged them out of a park in an affluent neighborhood. In New York and many other East Coast cities, it was a snowstorm that was making it difficult for demonstrators to stay camped out in public places.

The “Occupy” movement, which began six weeks ago in lower Manhattan to decry corporate influence in government and wealth inequality, has spread to cities large and small across the U.S. and around the world.

Demonstrators have spent weeks camped out in parks, wearing the patience of city officials – even those who have expressed some level of support for their cause.

Officers began clearing the park in Richmond around 1 a.m. and most of the protesters left when told to and around a dozen who stayed were arrested for trespassing, police spokesman Gene Lepley said.

The occupation had blossomed into a tent city, with dozens scattered around Kanawha Plaza in the city’s financial district. The site also included a library, a volleyball net and a large blue tarp strung up on three magnolia trees.

One of the protesters, Ira Birch, said the park was surrounded by a “huge line of cops” and police cruisers with their blue lights flashing. An officer read ordinances that the protesters were violating and told people to gather up their possessions and leave. She described the scene as “pretty peaceful.”

In Portland, Oregon, police have allowed protesters to sleep in two parks surrounded by office buildings despite policies outlawing camping, but Mayor Sam Adams warned demonstrators last week that he would not allow them to take over any more parks. Late Saturday, hundreds of protesters gathered in another park – Jamison Square in the wealthy Pearl District – and defied a midnight curfew.

About 30 people who had decided to risk arrest sat on the ground as other protesters walked around them and chanted “Whose Park? Our Park!” and “Make No Arrests.”

When police moved in around 2 a.m., all but the sitting protesters backed off. An Associated Press photographer said most of those protesters went limp and were carried or dragged away by police. There was no violence during the arrests, which took about 90 minutes.

Meanwhile in London, the Dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral became Monday the second high-profile clergy member to step down amid mounting controversy over anti-capitalist protests on the church’s grounds.

Graeme Knowles said that as criticism of the cathedral has mounted in the press and in public opinion, his position has become untenable.

His resignation follows that last week of Giles Fraser, a senior St. Paul’s Cathedral priest who had welcomed the anti-capitalist demonstrators to camp outside the landmark. 

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on November 01, 2011, on page 11.

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