MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Riot police in Australia’s second-largest city broke up a demonstration linked to the “Occupy Wall Street” movement Friday, after a group of around 100 people protesting corporate greed defied an order to vacate a plaza.
Several members of the “Occupy Melbourne” group screamed and cried as police dragged and carried them away from the city square, where protesters had been camped out for nearly a week.
Victoria state police spokeswoman Belinda Nolan said she did not know whether anyone had been arrested or injured during the scuffle, though several handcuffed protesters were seen being loaded into police vans.
The so-called “Occupy” movement began last month in New York, where people frustrated with America’s stubbornly limp economy have been camped out on Wall Street in a protest against corporate greed and social inequality. Since then, thousands of people have joined similar protests across the globe, including several cities in Australia. Most of the protests have been peaceful — with the exception of a rally in Rome that turned violent last week when protesters smashed bank windows, hurled bottles and set cars on fire.
Around 100 “Occupy” activists in Melbourne had been camped out in the square without incident since Oct. 15, many spending each night there in tents. But the Melbourne City Council finally said it had had enough, and warned protesters to leave by Friday morning or face trespassing charges.
Most activists ignored the eviction order, linking arms and forming a human chain while shouting, “This is a peaceful protest!”
Police fenced off the square and refused to let any additional protesters join the group.
Occupy Melbourne spokesman Jacob Grech said that the demonstration was peaceful, and that the protesters had a right to remain where they were.
“We’re telling them that it’s their right to protest and stay put,” Grech said. “We’re letting them know that if they are arrested, they will have legal representation and support.”
But riot police with shields eventually moved in, dragging people away and forcing them to stay behind the fence surrounding the square.
Police broke down the campsite, removing tents, trash, food and cardboard boxes that littered the plaza.