BOSTON (Reuters) – Boston police let a midnight deadline slip to clear a park of protesters affiliated with the Occupy Wall Street movement, but the protesters’ camp by early on Friday had shrunk roughly by half.
A crowd of several hundred people moved out of the park that protesters had occupied for more than two months and moved into the street in front of the Boston branch of the Federal Reserve, blocking traffic in the late-night hours.
Boston Police Superintendent William Evans said police officials did not plan to forcibly remove protesters, who contend the U.S. economic system no longer works to the benefit of most Americans.
“We’re not in any hurry,” Evans said. Then he walked through the crowd, spreading that message.
Mayor Thomas Menino on Thursday had ordered protesters to clear the camp by midnight, after a judge ruled they did not have the right to occupy Dewey Square, in the city’s financial district.
Protesters had spent much of Thursday taking down tents some had lived in since October, with many saying they wanted to avoid the risk of arrest.
“I’m getting out of here. I’m not getting arrested,” said Rachelle, a 36-year-old woman who said she was homeless and pregnant. She declined to give her last name.
The Occupy Wall Street movement, which started in New York’s financial district in September, spread across the country during the autumn, with camps sprouting up in cities including Philadelphia, Los Angles and Portland.
Officials in those cities lost patience with the camps over the past month, and police cleared out camps in cities including New York and Los Angeles, arresting hundreds.
The scene in Boston was raucous through the evening, with hundreds of people pouring into the camp to see what was going on and a brass band dancing through the park. The crowd counted down to the midnight deadline and cheered when it passed. A couple – Aaron Spagnolo, 33, and Nenore Baroumian, 28 – was married in the early morning hours.
Some protesters said they believed their actions had brought economic inequality into the forefront of U.S. politics.
“We definitely raised awareness that society is out of whack right now,” said Peter Grube, 23, of Boston. “We inspired a new generation of activists.”
(Editing by Vicki Allen)
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