NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Dozens of Occupy Wall Street protesters were arrested Saturday after they scaled a chain-link fence or crawled under it to get to an Episcopal 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.
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“Forty-nine protesters who used ladders to scale a fence enclosing private property were arrested for trespass this afternoon. One individual with two outstanding warrants and five pairs of bolt cutters in his backpack was arrested earlier, about 11 a.m. This may have stymied plans to cut through the fence on multiple sides,” said NYPD Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne.
About a thousand people gathered across the street at a city-owned park.
The arrests prompted a statement from Rev. Dr. James H. Cooper, Rector of Trinity Church.
“It is regrettable that Occupy members feel it is necessary to provoke potential legal and police action by attempting to trespass on other parish property… I would urge all concerned to stand down and seek justice in ways that do not further alienate potential allies,” Cooper wrote.
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Trinity Church says it would be unsafe for them to camp on the lot near the World Trade Center.
“We do not, however, believe that erecting a tent city at Duarte Square enhances their mission or ours. The vacant lot has no facilities to sustain a winter encampment. In good conscience and faith, we strongly believe to do so would be wrong, unsafe, unhealthy, and potentially injurious. We will continue to provide places of refuge and the responsible use of our facilities in the Wall Street area,” Cooper added.
Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said in a statement Friday it was “regrettable” that Occupy members want to seize the fenced-in property, and that the action could result in “legal and police action.”
Twenty-two protesters were arrested in the square on Nov. 15 after Zuccotti Park was cleared by police.
Occupy organizers say they’ll be at the square today to hold speeches and other events to mark the three-month anniversary of the movement.
They have previously asked church officials to let them occupy the church-owned property, but have been denied.
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