Scott Satchfield / Eyewitness News
NEW ORLEANS – Some protesters returned Tuesday night to Duncan Plaza shortly after police took the barricades down.
“We think this will be very big for us, and if we can stay here and keep making our stand here, so much the better,” said protester Justin Waren.
After hours of meetings with attorneys for both sides, U.S. District Judge Jay Zainey granted a temporary restraining order late Tuesday afternoon, forcing the city to reopen Duncan Plaza.
The city attorneys didn’t comment while walking out of court, while attorneys representing the Occupy NOLA group sounded off on the decision.
“It’s a decisive victory. Victory for the First Amendment, constitutional rights of those seeking to demonstrate with expressive conduct,” said Davida Finger, an attorney for Occupy NOLA.
Early in the morning protesters said they were caught off guard when NOPD officers moved in to clear the park, but Mayor Mitch Landrieu said plenty of warning was given, that a crackdown was coming.
“I feel like we timed it very well. I think that the notices that were given were respectable and were clear. I think the amount of time that we gave people to move out was thoughtful,” Landrieu said.
The city says it’s against the law to stay in the park after 10:30 p.m., and officials cited public health and safety concerns in their decision to remove the protesters.
Now, though, they’re allowed back for seven days after which a full hearing will be held.
Attorneys for the protesters say this is a victory for occupiers across the nation.
“We think this is the only situation in the country where members of Occupy movement have been evicted, and will now actually be allowed to return because of the city’s actions,” Finger said. “This is unprecedented.”
Acting City Attorney Richard Cortizas said the city “respectfully disagrees” with Zainey’s ruling.
“For the past 61 days, the city worked cooperatively and reasonably with individuals who encamped in the park,” he said in a released statement. “Today, we successfully cleaned the park, housed homeless individuals, and reduced the threats to public health and safety. We will comply with the order of the court, but we remain deeply concerned that allowing the re-encampment of Duncan Plaza poses a threat to the public health, safety, and welfare of those encamped there and to the community at large.”