Judge Denies Occupy Wall Street Request to Return to Zuccotti Park

PHOTO: Police in riot gear watch as Occupy Wall Street protesters march past City Hall in New York, Nov. 15, 2011.
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Occupy Wall Street protesters have no First Amendment right to camp out in a lower Manhattan park, a judge ruled, barring them from returning with their equipment to the encampment they had called home for two months.

Judge Michael Stallman of New York State's supreme court released a statement after hearing oral arguments earlier in the day.

Lawyers for the protesters had obtained a temporary restraining order from another judge earlier, allowing the group back into Zuccotti Park. However, police barricaded the park and stood guard over the property.

"The movants have not demonstrated that they have a First Amendment right to remain in Zuccotti Park," Stallman wrote, "along with their tents, structures, generators, and other installations to the exclusion of the owner's reasonable rights and duties to maintain Zuccotti Park, or to the rights to public acess of others who might wish to use the space safely."

Occupy Wall Street protesters swarmed around the park earlier in the day, holding copies of a court order that allowed them to return with their tents.

Judge Lucy Billings had granted a temporary restraining order after protesters were removed, prohibiting police from evicting protesters from the park, except for "lawful arrests of criminal offense."

Billings instructed that another judge would make a ruling on the temporary restraining order later in the day.

The demonstrators were demanding reentry into the park just hours after being forcibly removed by police in riot gear.

Late in the day, police allowed a steady flow of people back into the park but checked to make sure they weren't bringing tents or backpacks with them.

There was sense among the demonstrators that today is a major test for the movement.

"This never dies. It doesn't matter whether it's a physical place or not," said John Murdock, a resident of New York's East Village who has been coming to the protest for about a month. "We're going to make life as difficult as possible in a non-violent way for the people in power."

More than 200 people were arrested during the early morning raid, according to New York's Deputy Police Commissioner for Public Information Paul Browne, and Occupy Wall Street has called on those being released to congregate in Duarte Square about a mile north of Zuccotti Park. There are reports that hundreds have gathered there to regroup and mobilize.

"Arrestees for this morning are being released, all headed straight to Duarte Square," Occupy Wall Street posted on Twitter.

After gathering at Duarte Square, some protesters cut the fence of a lot owned by Trinity Church just west of the square and attempted to occupy it, according to The New York Times. Police cleared the lot and arrested more than 20 people.

Bloomberg said the city raided the park this morning because the protesters and their equipment had become a health and safety hazard and they were preventing others from using the privately-owned park.

"The First Amendment doesn't protect the use of tents and sleeping bags," Bloomberg said. "Now they will have to occupy the park with just the power of their arguments."

"Clothes, socks, underwear -- they were all taken away and that's wrong that the mayor ordered that," said 27-year-old Andre Lakes, who manned the comfort station in the park. "We had a military tent full of things. It's wrong how we are trying to give people help but they took that away."

Prior to the court order, the city planned on reopening Zuccotti Park following the cleaning, but was not going to permit the protesters to return with tents, sleeping bags, tarps and other gear.

An hour after the police action at Zuccotti Park began this morning, Occupy Wall Street issued a statement promising "occupation actions" in th e coming days. ABC News' Kevin Dolak, Dan Harris, Richard Esposito, Aaron Katersky and Bill McGuire contributed to this report.

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