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Judge rules Seattle college can evict Occupy protesters

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SEATTLE (Reuters) – A judge rejected on Friday a bid by anti-Wall Street activists to block their eviction from a Seattle community college, clearing the way for the city to remove them as early as next week.

Officials at Seattle Central Community College said they would start posting no-camping notices at the school in the coming days, but did not immediately set a deadline for protesters to leave.

“We want to do everything we can to resolve this peacefully, but we’ll need Occupy Seattle’s cooperation for that to happen,” Chancellor Jill Wakefield told Reuters following the ruling. “We’ll be talking to each of the campers to let them know that they need to leave the campus.”

The decision comes six weeks after activists aligned with the Occupy Wall Street movement against economic inequality and excesses of the U.S. financial system moved their tents onto the college campus.

Protesters have also camped at City Hall and a shopping plaza. The college, in seeking to evict the campers, joins many U.S. cities that have lost tolerance with protest encampments in recent weeks.

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School trustees passed an emergency rule last week banning camping at the college, prompting attorneys for the protesters to seek an injunction against its enforcement.

Wakefield called the camp an “emergency situation,” saying that the population had shifted away from protesters to include more homeless people.

“There were a number of health issues, with so many campers in that tiny area,” she said, citing food handling conditions, garbage and pets.

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“There will be no restraints on protesting,” she said. “We’re committed to free speech and this is not about free speech, it’s about camping.”

Occupy Seattle attorney Braden Pence said the protest group, with about 150 campers and 60 tents staked out at the college, plans to appeal to the judge again on Monday.

He said college president Paul Killpatrick has told Occupy Seattle members that they had until the beginning of the college’s next quarter to move. Over the weekend, demonstrators will continue to camp at the college, while “trying to figure out what our next step is and where we’ll go,” Pence said.

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“We will try to convince the judge that it’s not an emergency to move,” he said.

More than 50 Seattle-area Occupy protesters have been arrested since early October, some of them for blocking traffic.

(Additional reporting by Nicole Neroulias; Writing by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Steve Gorman and Cynthia Johnston)

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