Occupy Wall Street Protesters Return to Park, Judge Says No Tents, Camping Items Allowed

Area churches opened their doors to accommodate protesters for the night

Protesters were allowed back into Zuccotti Park Tuesday evening but were banned from bringing tents, tarps, generators and camping equipment after a judge sided with the city following a surprise overnight raid of the Occupy Wall Street headquarters.

"Individuals who attempt to enter the park carrying these items may be refused entry," an NYPD chief bellowed through a bullhorn as several hundred demonstrators filed back into the plaza after a tumultuous day.

Police searched bags and controlled entrance points to the park, as some inside vowed they would be staying the night, "tent or no tent."

One group of protesters at the park stared down police officers who told them they couldn't sit on the concrete partitions.

"Shame on you!," they shouted at police.

Protesters wondered how police would react if they tried to sleep in the park Tuesday night after they were warned they would not even be allowed to lie down anywhere on the grounds. 

They seemed energized by the tougher police posture -- even if it pushed them to consider occupying another space.

"If it's not here, I have a feeling it might be somewhere else," said Corina Copp, a protester. "I think Bloomberg created a much larger problem for himself."

"I feel emboldened by this," added protester Greg Gerke. "They're worried people are gonna stay here, and they probably will. Tent or no tent."

Judge Michael D. Stallman had ruled earlier in the evening that protesters "have not demonstrated that they have a First Amendment right to remain in Zuccotti Park, along with their tents, structures, generators and other installations" that block public access to the park or limit the property owners' abilities to maintain it.

His ruling came hours after a different judge had granted a temporary restraining order halting the city from enforcing those equipment rules. The city, she wrote, could not enforce park rules that were published "after the occupation began."

But Stallman said while the court is mindful of protesters' First Amendment rights, "even protected speech is not equally permissible in all places and at all times."

Read the judge's ruling here.

One protester told NBC New York Monday night, "Ultimately, I don't care what the court ruling is. If I have to get arrested, I have to get arrested. They're not gonna shut down this movement."

Meanwhile, area churches were offering space for protesters to spend the night: the Middle Collegiate Church in the East Village told NBC New York it was prepared to host 70 Occupy Wall Street protesters. They offered pizza for dinner Tuesday night and planned to have breakfast ready Wednesday morning.

"This is so sudden," said Rev. Jacqui Lewis. "So we just need a moment to see what's the best way to be supportive of the spirit of this justice movement."

The church said it only had its community room floor to offer for sleeping accommodations, but said it was warm and dry. 

Chris Harnden, a protester who took advantage of the offer, volunteered to work security at the church Tuesday night. Wednesday, he said, it was back to Zuccotti Park.

"We were back in today, and we will be back in everyday," he said.

After that, "we'll need to come back here. We'll need to rely on the kindness of others to give us a place to sleep." 

"We can keep up with this indefinitely, until there's no reason to do this anymore," Harnden said.

Read more about the overnight raid at Zuccotti Park and the subsequent court battle here

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