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Occupy protesters arrested in Texas, Oregon; in many cities, it's the cold they're fighting
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) ' Dozens of anti-Wall Street protesters were arrested Sunday in Texas, where they clashed with police over food tables, and in Oregon, where officers dragged them out of a park in an affluent neighborhood. In New York and many other East Coast cities, it was a snowstorm that was making it difficult for demonstrators to stay camped out in public places.
The "Occupy" movement, which began six weeks ago in lower Manhattan to decry corporate influence in government and wealth inequality, has spread to cities large and small across the country and around the world. Demonstrators have spent weeks camped out in parks, wearing the patience of city officials ' even those who have expressed some level of support for their cause.
In Portland, Ore., police have allowed protesters to sleep in two parks surrounded by office buildings despite policies outlawing camping, but Mayor Sam Adams warned demonstrators last week that he would not allow them to take over any more parks. Late Saturday, hundreds of protesters gathered in another park ' Jamison Square in the wealthy Pearl District ' and defied a midnight curfew.
About 30 people who had decided to risk arrest sat on the ground as other protesters walked around them and chanted "Whose Park? Our Park!" and "Make No Arrests."
When police moved in around 2 a.m., all but the sitting protesters backed off. An Associated Press photographer said most of those protesters went limp and were carried or dragged away by police. There was no violence during the arrests, which took about 90 minutes.
The protesters ' all appearing to be in their 20s and 30s with many wearing Halloween-style face paint ' were handcuffed and taken away in police vans. "We are the 99 percent," one arrestee continued to chant.
Police said the arrests were made on charges that included criminal trespassing, interfering with a police officer and disorderly conduct.
Some protesters said they wanted to camp in the Pearl District because they view its residents as part of the wealthy demographic they're protesting. Commissioner Randy Leonard had urged them to reconsider, saying in a letter that it would be inappropriate to expand the demonstration into a neighborhood park.
"We ' the entire city council ' are your friends ... at present," Leonard wrote. "However, our friendship and support are now being unreasonably tested by the decision to occupy Jamison Square."
Police in Austin, Texas, made 39 arrests early Sunday as they moved to enforce a new rule banning food tables in the City Hall plaza where protesters have camped out. Some protesters surrounded the tables with arms linked.
Most were charged with criminal trespass, Police Chief Art Acevedo said. No injuries were reported.
Protesters had been advised of the food table ban on Friday, Assistant City Manager Michael McDonald told the Austin American-Statesman.
"We want to facilitate their activities," he said, "but we can't allow this to be a permanent campsite."
Some protesters found the ban arbitrary. "On a night where there are hundreds of drunks driving around town, they have all these resources here to take down three food tables," protester Dave Cortez told the newspaper.
Protesters in California, Georgia and Colorado also have been arrested over the last several days.
In Tennessee, Republican Gov. Bill Haslam's administration sent state troopers to haul away Occupy Nashville protesters Thursday and Friday for violating a park curfew, but none were jailed. A local official, Night Court Magistrate Tom Nelson, refused to sign off on the arrest warrants, saying state officials have no authority to set the curfew.
On Saturday night, protesters prepared for a third night of arrests but were greeted by only a single trooper on patrol who made no move against them. Safety Department spokeswoman Jennifer Donnals would not say whether the troopers plan to continue the arrests, saying only, "The curfew remains in effect and we urge the protesters to adhere to it."
New York's Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been similarly thwarted by local officials in Albany, where Occupy protesters have pitched tents in a city park across the street from the Capitol. Cuomo ' who has been targeted by the demonstrators for opposing an extension of a temporary tax on people earning more than $200,000 per year ' reportedly asked Albany's mayor last weekend to begin enforcing the park's 11 p.m. curfew.
Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings declined, saying removing the group would be more trouble than it was worth.
"Some of the governor's people were pretty firm about our not doing this, letting them stay in the park, but basically, we had allowed this before," Jennings told the New York Post. "My counsel said we'd be opening ourselves up to civil liability if we forced them out."
In Britain, clergymen and demonstrators held talks aimed at avoiding a violent confrontation over a protest camp outside London's iconic St. Paul's Cathedral.
Both the church and the local authority, the City of London Corporation, have launched legal action in the hope of clearing scores of tents from a pedestrianized square and footpath outside the cathedral, which is close to the London Stock Exchange. The protest forced the cathedral to close for the first time since German planes bombed the city during World War II, but it reopened Friday after a week.
"I have spoken to the police and there is absolutely no use for a violent confrontation," Richard Chartres, Bishop of London, told several hundred people at the protest camp. "I do not think we are on the inevitable road to violence."
Britain's High Court will decide whether to authorize authorities to forcibly clear the camp. Many expect the process to be lengthy and complex.
In lower Manhattan, police have not attempted to evict people who have been camped out in Zuccotti Park since Sept. 17, but they recently took away the demonstrators' generators and fuel, saying they were a safety hazard.
In a letter to the fire department, attorneys associated with the New York chapter of the National Lawyer Guild said the seizures were only a pretext for "freezing out" the activists. Guild official Gideon Oliver says the action deprived hundreds of people of heat a day before snow was forecast, putting them in harm's way.
A nor'easter buried parts of the Northeast in up to 2 feet of snow Saturday. There was far less snow than that in New York, but it quickly turned to a miserably cold and wet slush. At least a few protesters left.
Nick Thommen, a 6-foot-4 former Marine who served in Iraq and war-torn regions of Africa, gave fellow protesters lessons on how to endure the rough conditions and the impending winter.
"I'm fine here ' we trained for months in Norway," he said. But he said less experienced protesters could easily get hypothermia or frostbite in the Manhattan park when temperatures drop.
"I went around waking people up and telling them they have to move ' do jumping jacks, or anything," he said. He added that shivering, even in a down sleeping bag, "is the fastest way to lose energy."
Though far from the nor'easter, Des Moines, Iowa, also was getting uncomfortable for protesters, with overnight temperatures dipping into the low 30s. Protesters in Stewart Square have bundled up in coats, hats and gloves, and some have surrounded their tents in layers of cardboard, hay bales and trash bags filled with leaves.
They know will the winter will be much worse, but said they're committed to staying in the park to draw attention to their concerns.
"I'm equipped to be out here however cold it gets, whether it's 20 degrees above or 20 below," Bill Lewis said.
Associated Press writers Travis Loller in Nashville, Tenn., David B. Caruso and Verena Dobnik in New York, Michael J. Crumb in Des Moines, Iowa, and Terrence Petty in Portland, Ore., contributed to this report.