BOSTON (CBS) – Boston Mayor Tom Menino said he will order Occupy Boston protesters to leave the encampment by midnight Thursday night.
“We’re going to ask the occupants of Dewey Square to be out of there by midnight,” Menino said Thursday.
If not, Menino says, “We’ll take further action.”
A judge lifted a restraining order on Wednesday that could have prevented the city of Boston from evicting Occupy Boston members from their encampment.
“The judge has made a decision, gave me the authority,” Menino said.
Suffolk Superior Court Judge Frances McIntyre ruled that, “while Occupy Boston protesters may be exercising their expressive rights during their protest, they have no privilege under the First Amendment to seize and hold the land on which they sit.”
Mayor Menino cites public safety issues as his main concern in telling the protesters to leave.
“Public safety is number one,” he said.
Menino would not say definitively whether the city planned to act right at the midnight deadline.
WBZ-TV’s Bill Shields reports
Occupy Boston lawyers, however, had asked for a permanent restraining order, arguing that they were protected by the First Amendment and the city of Boston should not be allowed to evict protesters without a hearing. They planned to appeal the ruling on Thursday.
WBZ NewsRadio 1030′s Ben Parker reports
Menino said he doesn’t expect many problems.
“I think there’s a lot of people down there who understand the court ruling, who will adhere to the court ruling,” he said. “After that, we’ll make decisions about how we clear off the site.”
Members of Occupy Boston were packing up in response to Menino’s order, but that didn’t mean they were leaving.
Even as many removed their tents, tarps still remain and plans are underway for a midnight dance party to maintain their physical presence. They also held workshops on civil disobedience as they prepare for possible arrest.
“There are few times you’re handed opportunities to know what you’ll stand for and what you won’t stand for,” said one protester who identified himself only as Chris.
Messages on Twitter seemed to suggest they may be gearing up for a fight.
Many of the occupiers were removing their personal belongings from the camp, but vowed to stay in their tents.
“This is just a change in tactics,” said one, as he rolled up a tarp.
The camp has been at Dewey Square since the end of September, with the occupiers protesting what they call corporate greed, and government complicity.
Ryan Cahill is a college student, who has been there from the beginning.
“I think we created a brand…and our message got out. Now, if we have to leave, it will actually give us more man hours to pursue our goals,” he said.
Police are promising their tactics will be professional, but that anyone who doesn’t pack up and leave by midnight will be arrested.
Following what they anticipate will be a confrontation with police, protesters say they’ll gather in Chinatown and prepare to march.
At 8 a.m. Friday morning they plan to meet again at Dewey Square and march on the courthouses where they expect protesters will be arraigned for resisting arrest. “Just because the physical encampment is down doesn’t mean we’re done fighting,” said protester Michael Mango.
WBZ-TV’s Beth Germano and Bill Shields contributed to this report.