(Adds Hong Kong spokesman’s comments in sixth paragraph.)
Nov. 16 (Bloomberg) -- Australian officials ordered protesters inspired by the “Occupy Wall Street” movement to remove their tents from a park in Melbourne’s city center where they have been camping for weeks protesting wealth inequality.
Dozens of officers encircled the Treasury Gardens site this morning as city council officials demanded demonstrators remove any structures, cooking equipment and bedding, protesters said.
The council order “overrides our constitutional right to free speech and public assembly,” Carl Scrase, a spokesman for Occupy Melbourne, said by telephone from the city. Danielle Murnane, a spokeswoman for the Victoria Police Department, said the council had ordered tents be removed from the site.
The Occupy movement began in New York in September and spread to Europe, Asia and Australia in opposition to bank bailouts, public expenditure cuts, arms dealing and corporate profits. Protesters in New York lost a bid to overturn their eviction from a lower Manhattan park yesterday as police forcibly removed demonstrators.
Hong Kong protesters, who have pitched tents under the Asian headquarters of HSBC Holdings Plc, have no plans to leave, spokesman Tommy Chan said today. Hong Kong police said in an e- mailed statement that authorities “respect the rights of individuals to peaceful assemblies and to express their views.”
“Occupy Hong Kong is different from the ones overseas as some of those occupations aim to overthrow the government,” said Chan, 21. “Our first step is to raise the awareness in the city toward the unfairness of the existing capitalist system.”
New York State Supreme Court Justice Michael Stallman yesterday ruled protesters didn’t show “they have a First Amendment right to remain in Zuccotti Park along with their tents, structures, generators and other installations.” The decision may signal a turning point for the nationwide movement as municipal officials seek to curtail protests that have sprung up in cities including Oakland, California, Portland, Oregon, and Salt Lake City.
In Melbourne today, about 80 protesters remained at the Treasury Gardens park in “solidarity” with the Occupy movement in New York, Scrase said.
Some protesters were packing up their camp and loading belongings into vans, while others covered their goods with tarpaulins as they held a meeting to decide how to respond to the council’s order.
--With assistance from Soraya Permatasari in Melbourne and Stephanie Tong in Hong Kong. Editors: Edward Johnson, John Brinsley
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