NEW YORK — The ground had barely dried in New York's freshly scrubbed Zuccotti Park when hundreds of angry Occupy Wall Street protesters crowded around its perimeter, staring down grim-faced riot police and vowing to reclaim the space.
For all the bravado, though, the city's dismantling of their tent settlement was shattering to a movement that has been forced to confront a future far less idyllic than the one envisioned when Occupy Wall Street began.
With their tents, kitchen gear, generators and personal belongings seized by police, even diehard Occupy Wall Street demonstrators acknowledged that the surprise post-midnight raid was a logistical setback that could force the movement to find a new home.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg's move against the campers came on the heels of a protest Monday by local business leaders outside City Hall, who complained that in his effort to accommodate protesters' rights to assembly and free speech, he was neglecting their rights. It also followed crackdowns elsewhere, which local officials said were necessary as camps became increasingly filthy and plagued by reported crimes.
On Tuesday evening, after hours of growing tensions at Zuccotti Park, a judge upheld the city's ban on tents and generators in the park, leaving would-be campers exposed to the elements with none of the creature comforts that made their 2-month-old stay tolerable.
Lawyers representing protesters played down the decision. "This is just a hiccup in the road," said one, Danny Alterman.
New York City's action appeared to have emboldened Los Angeles, where police Chief Charlie Beck said officials were working out a timeline to evict Occupy protesters from their camp outside Los Angeles City Hall. In Oakland, Portland and other cities where police have targeted Occupy encampments, protesters have been scattered and forced to ponder how to sustain the momentum that began Sept. 17, when scores of people demanding a crackdown on corporate greed staked their claim to Zuccotti Park.
"The place was taken from us, but the spirit was still there," said Gayle Price, 46, who said the movement was about more than Zuccotti Park. " We just have to figure out how to keep warm."