Covering Louisiana

Dec 6, 2011 11:34 AM by AP

Serpas: Most Occupy New Orleans protesters leaving

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Most protesters at the Occupy New Orleans camp began leaving peacefully early Tuesday after officers formed around the park and began telling people encamped there they were violating the law, police chief Ronal Serpas said.

Speaking at a news briefing, Serpas said there have been no signs of violence so far.

"So far, most of the people are moving," he said.

While most of the dozens of protesters there were leaving, Serpas said a small group was staying behind. He gave no details on how police would deal with those who were staying.

The move by police comes ahead of a hearing Tuesday during which a federal judge was to consider a request by protesters to issue a temporary restraining order blocking the city from evicting them and an injunction that would allow them to continue their around-the-clock occupation of Duncan Plaza.

The group's lawsuit says evicting them from the park would violate their constitutional right to peaceful assembly and freedom of speech.

Serpas also said police have identified 35 homeless people at the camp that they are trying to provide assistance for.

The protesters have been in the park since Oct. 6, when roughly 200 marchers paraded through New Orleans' business district. They said they are protesting proposed cuts in Medicare spending, the war in Afghanistan, perceived corporate greed and a variety of other social ills in a spin-off of New York's Occupy Wall Street demonstrations.

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