UPDATE: As of 5:00 a.m, Zuccotti Park has been cleared of protesters, Deputy Police Commissioner for Public Information Paul Browne said.
(NEW YORK) -- Close to 100 people were arrested early Tuesday morning as the New York Police Department cleared out Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan -- the main camp of the Occupy Wall Street movement.
City officials tell ABC News that protesters are being ordered to leave the park -- by some accounts, only temporarily.
Conflicts began early Tuesday -- the two month anniversary of the movement -- when the NYPD surrounded Zuccotti Park with officers in riot gear and broadcast by bullhorn the order for protesters to vacate the park, which was soon lit up with flood lights. According to reports, police said they would arrest anyone who refused the order to leave.
Police officers in riot gear were seen pouring into the scene from all directions and sealing off the park. Officers backed by additional vans filled with police were driving protesters forcefully north up Broadway, away from the park.
At least two spots of violent clashes were reported north of Zuccotti Park, while two arrest wagons were filled with protesters at Broadway, about two blocks north of the park.
At the park, the tents, street furniture and any possessions protesters refused to move were dismantled and tossed into dumpsters and open-topped city garbage trucks.
By 3:00 a.m., only about 40 protesters remained in the park, although hundreds were gathered in pockets nearby. Protesters who vacated Zuccotti Park marched up to Foley Square, approximately 10 blocks north above City Hall.
The final group of protesters to be removed from the park -- about a dozen -- were chained to each other and to trees. Authorities used portable power saws to sever the chains. No trees were injured, police said.
A flyer that was handed out to protesters read: “The city has determined that the continued occupation of Zuccotti Park poses an increasing health and fire safety hazard to those camped in the park, the city’s first responders, and to the surrounding community. You are required to immediately remove all property, including tents, sleeping bags and tarps from Zuccotti Park. That means you must remove the property now.”
The flyer indicated that protesters would be allowed into the park “after a few hours” when the park has been cleaned, but they “will not be permitted to bring tents, sleeping bags, tarps and similar materials with you.”
A tweet at 1:20 a.m. ET from the official Twitter of the administration of Mayor Michael Bloomberg also confirmed the temporary evacuation: “Occupants of Zuccotti should temporarily leave and remove tents and tarps. Protestors can return after the Park is cleared. #ows.”
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