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Zurich protestors move to church grounds

Police cleared the Lindenhof square on Tuesday morning Keystone

A Zurich church has granted anti-capitalist demonstrators a new site to set up camp after they were cleared by police from the Lindenhof area on Tuesday morning.

This content was published on November 15, 2011 - 21:08
swissinfo.ch and agencies

Demonstrators had been in the area as part of the global Occupy movement which is protesting against the excesses of the financial sector and austerity measures.

Representatives of the Protestant church of St Jakob offered sanctuary to the group of some 100 people until January 5, as long as they agreed to respect certain rules.

They may stay on the grounds on condition that their protest remains nonviolent and that church events and visitors are not disturbed. The arrangement will be reviewed in January.

The highpoint of the Zurich protest was an around 1,000-strong gathering at Zurich’s Paradeplatz, the symbolic heart of the Swiss banking industry, on October 15. There were also demonstrations on that day in Geneva, Basel and the capital Bern.

On October 17, following police intervention, a group of around 100 protestors relocated to the Lindenhof square, where they have been camping out ever since. They continued to go down to the Paradeplatz on Fridays and Saturdays to spread their message to the public.

The city had given the protestors a deadline of November 13 at midnight to clear the site after their official request to stay was rejected. Why the authorities had waited until Tuesday is unknown.

Around 50 police arrived at Lindenhof at around 8am Tuesday morning. Some of the around 50 activists still there left of their own accord within a 20-minutes deadline, but a group refused, forming a circle and sitting down, and were removed by police. In all 31 people were taken away in vans to police stations.

Charges

They are to be charged with hindering or non-compliance with an official action. In addition, they are banned from the old town for 24 hours, police said.

Some of the 40 tents were dismantled and taken away by police. The action lasted around 75 minutes.

The police action was "absolutely peaceful and proportionate", police spokesman Marco Cortesi told the Swiss News Agency. The authorities were satisfied with how it had gone, he said. However, he added that it could not be avoided that some individuals had to be dealt with more severely.

However, the Young Socialists, the youth branch of the centre-left Social Democratic party, condemned the police action because “the Lindenhof occupiers have behaved in a cooperative and peaceful way”.

The twitter feed on the demonstrators' website also complained that the police had used too much force.

The protestors had enjoyed some public sympathy. “We have received donations of more than SFr10,000 [$10,900], without counting food and other necessities,” Laurent said when swissinfo.ch visited the demonstrators last week.

But they remained resolute ahead of the order to go. “We symbolise a new idea, a new path and we want to take this path in a peaceful way,” said one demonstrator. 

New York

Also on Tuesday the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators in New York, who sparked the global movement when they set up camp in September, were temporarily ordered to leave Zucotti Park, their long-time encampment in Lower Manhattan.

But they have been told that they can return once the area has been cleaned.

Around 70 protesters were arrested, including some who had chained themselves together.

Protestors had on Monday announced on their website that they planned to “shut down Wall Street” with a demonstration on Thursday to commemorate the completion of two months of the encampment.

Protests

May 15, 2011: Around 20,000 people demonstrated in several Spanish cities. This gave rise to the movement 15-M or the Indignados.

The demonstrations spread to Berlin, Brussels, London, Paris, Athens and Tel Aviv, where hundreds and thousands of young people took to the streets calling for more democracy and a better future.

By the end of September the protests had reached the United States. A group of young people occupied the Zuccotti Park near Wall Street. Their slogan: we are the 99%. Demonstrations have spread to all the main cities in the country.

The young Indignados are not part of any traditional political movement. But their claims are supported by several parties on the left, intellectuals, politicians and economists – including the former chief economist at the World Bank Joseph Stiglitz and the former economics Nobel prize winner Paul Krugman.

October 15, 2011: protests went global, including in Zurich, Basel and Geneva in Switzerland. The organisers of the Swiss protests said they were coming out for a transparent financial system and for the banks to have less say.

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