Authorities in full riot gear removed Occupy Baltimore protesters early Tuesday from a downtown plaza where they had been camped out for months.
Baltimore City police moved into McKeldin Square around 3:30 a.m. and closed off surrounding streets. City police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi told WBAL-AM the scene was ``extremely peaceful, very, very civil,'' and that the protesters were being moved to homeless shelters.
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake issued a statement early Tuesday, saying the city is ``committed to protecting individuals' right to protest.'' However, Rawlings-Blake said the city's public parks and green areas should not be treated as a permanent campground. Officials would provide outreach and assistance to those who are homeless, she added.
By 6 a.m., the demonstrators had been cleared out of the plaza and only one tent remained standing. Items including tables, chairs, pots and other housewares were assembled in the middle of the plaza. A temporary fence had been set up around the site and workers were loading bags of trash into trucks.
City officials recently denied Occupy Baltimore's request for a permit to continue their protest in the plaza and cut off their power supply. Demonstrators have been at the site since Oct. 4 and had hoped to extend their protest into April. The number of people at the site had fluctuated depending on the time of day and the weather, but participants had said more than 20 people slept there most nights.
Authorities said a woman was charged with assault in a stabbing at the site earlier this month.
The move by Baltimore officials comes as Occupy Wall Street protesters on the West Coast, heady with their successful attempts to block trucks and curb business at busy ports, said they plan to continue their blockades and keep staging similar protests. Thousands of demonstrators forced shipping terminals in Oakland, Calif.; Portland, Ore.; and Longview, Wash.; to halt parts of their operations Monday and some intended to keep their blockade attempts ramped up overnight.