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New Jersey State police and sanitation workers on Friday started removing belongings from Occupy Wall Street protesters left at the World War II Memorial in Trenton after police told them they could not keep any "permanent structures" at the site.
A handful of protesters have been at the site since Oct. 6, with a few staying around the clock.
On Thursday, protesters took down tents and canopies erected at the site after state troopers told them to do so. They were warned on Friday to remove plastic bins and a generator, among other items, otherwise the items would be removed.
By noon, state police kept their word and started carting away coolers and other items as about five protesters, who were outnumbered by reporters, watched.
"These are items people in a public park would bring with them on any given day to any public park," said protester Alexander Higgins, a 31-year-old blogger from Brick who has been at the site nearly every day since Oct. 6. "People go into parks and set up tables all the time. If we were playing chess at the table, this wouldn't be a problem."
The memorial is run by the state Military and Veterans Affairs Department. A spokesman for the attorney general's Office, which represents the department, said the department is within its rights to enforce rules at the memorial that were already in place before the protest started.
"Protesters have a right to demonstrate but not a right to take over the park," said Lee Moore, a spokesman for Attorney General Paula Dow. "We have safety issues there and we have to make sure this property is available to anyone who wants to enjoy it."
He said any property confiscated would be placed in storage and could be claimed within 24 hours.
Protesters said they had straightened up their belongings and weren't bothering anyone. They saw the removal of property as a tacit way of evicting them.
In New York City, where the protests began, the city backed off ordering people out of a park in order to clean it after demonstrators complained the effort was a pretext to eviction.
Higgins, who was using the generator to power his laptop and a live video feed to the site, said the power to the outlets was cut off Friday morning.
Higgins, who has two small children and was laid off from two computer jobs at pharmaceutical companies recently, said he would continue protesting corporate greed as long as he could.
"These jobs are being shipped oversea so that they can be done, basically, by slave labor," he said. "This country is no longer for the majority of people. It's for the majority of money."