New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said this morning that an "unfortunate minority" of Occupy Wall Street protesters had made conditions at the movement's encampment at Zuccotti Park "intolerable," and that the city was required to evict protesters for their own health and safety.
At 1 a.m. this morning police announced that protesters had to leave the site with their belongings so that it would be cleaned. New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said about 200 people had been arrested - 142 in the park, and 50 to 60 in surrounding areas.
At a press conference this morning Bloomberg said in addition to complaints about health, safety and fire hazards at the Occupy Wall Street tent city, it had become increasingly difficult for police to monitor conditions at the encampment.
"Some have argued to let them stay indefinitely. Others said to wait for winter and hope it drove the protesters away, but inaction was not an option," he said. "We could not wait for someone in the park to get killed, or to injure another first responder, before acting."
Bloomberg said the majority of protesters have been "peaceful and responsible," and respectful of police commands when they have marched. "But an unfortunate minority has not been. As the number of protesters has grown, this has created an intolerable situation."
"No right is absolute. With every right comes a responsibility. The 1st amendment gives every New Yorker the right to speak out, but it does not give anyone the right to sleep in a park or otherwise take it over to the exclusion of others, nor does it permit anyone in our society to live outside of the law."
"At the site, they were violating the property rights [of the park's owner], and at the site, the safety and health conditions became intolerable.
"We have an obligation to enforce the laws today to make sure that everybody has access to the park so that everyone can protest - that's the 1st amendment, and it's number one in our minds," Bloomberg said. "We also have a similar, just as important obligation to protect the health and safety of the people in the park.
"Let me remind everybody, New York City is the city to come and express ourselves," Bloomberg said. "We have a history of being warm and welcoming, and what was happening in Zuccotti Park was not that. It developed into a situation, which was prohibiting a lot of people from expressing their views.