NYC protesters scale fence at vacant lot

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Associated Press

Posted on December 17, 2011 at 3:02 PM

Updated Sunday, Dec 18 at 7:32 AM

NEW YORK (AP) — Dozens of Occupy Wall Street protesters were arrested Saturday after they scaled a chain-link fence or crawled under it to get to a church-owned lot they want to use for a new camp site.

Protesters used a wooden ladder to scale the fence or lifted it from below while others cheered them on. A man wearing a Santa suit stood on the ladder among others, as they ignored red "Private Property" signs.

As officers made arrests, protesters shouted obscenities and hollered: "Make them catch you!" The group was inside the lot for a short time before being led out by police in single file through a space in the fence. About 50 people were arrested, police said.

"We're just trying to say that this country has gone in the wrong direction, and we need spaces that we can control and we can decide our future in, and that's what this is about," said David Suker, who was among those who scaled the fence.

Before the arrests, several hundred gathered in Duarte Square, a half-acre wedge of a park at the edge of Manhattan's Tribeca neighborhood and across the street from the vacant lot. They gathered partly to mark the three-month anniversary of the Occupy movement and partly to demand use of the lot, owned by Trinity Church.

After police cleared the protesters from the lot, about 200 people regrouped for a march on Seventh Avenue. Police began making arrests, tackling at least two people in the street and handcuffing them. When the protesters cleared the avenue, the crowd continued to march to Times Square under a heavy police presence.

The original Occupy Wall Street camp in Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan was shut down last month. Trinity is a Zuccotti Park neighbor that helped demonstrators assemble, and provided them shelter in the three months since the movement began. The day after authorities moved in and cleaned out Zuccotti Park, about a dozen protesters went to the vacant lot, clipped the fence at the church-owned property and were arrested, along with some journalists.

Since then, some Occupy protesters have launched a bid to gain the church's consent for them to use the space. Trinity's Rev. James H. Cooper said giving the protesters access to the lot would not be a safe or smart move.

"There are no facilities at the Canal Street lot. Demanding access and vandalizing the property by a determined few OWS protesters won't alter the fact that there are no basic elements to sustain an encampment," he wrote in a statement. "The health, safety and security problems posed by an encampment here, compounded by winter weather, would dwarf those experienced at Zuccotti Park."

On Friday, the top bishop of the Episcopal Church asked protesters not to trespass on the property. Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori warned it could result in "legal and police action."

In Raleigh, North Carolina, police said at least six protesters taking part in an anti-Wall Street march in in the state capital are facing charges after their arrest.

Police Capt. G.B. Dixon said Saturday the six protesters were part of a group of about 20 or 30 who blocked Raleigh's downtown Hillsborough Street and refused to move when police commanded.

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Associated Press writer Cristian Salazar and broadcast newsperson Julie Walker contributed to this report.

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