At about 1am local time today, police handed out notices from the owner of Zuccotti Park, Brookfield Office Properties, and the city saying that the park had to be cleared because it had become unsanitary and hazardous.
Protesters were told they could return within several hours, but without sleeping bags, tarps or tents.
The mayor’s office also tweeted that the protesters should “temporarily leave”.
Paul Browne, a spokesman for the New York Police Department, said most people began filing out of the park once they received the notices. One person was arrested for disorderly conduct.
Rabbi Chaim Gruber, an Occupy Wall Street member, said police officers were clearing the streets near Zuccotti Park.
“The police are forming a human shield, and are pushing everyone away,” he said.
Notices given to the protesters said the park “poses an increasing health and fire safety hazard to those camped in the park, the city’s first responders and the surrounding community”.
It said that tents, sleeping bags and other items had to be removed because “the storage of these materials at this location is not allowed”. Anything left behind would be taken away, the notices said, giving an address at a sanitation department building where items could be picked up.
Protesters yesterday 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 beginning of the encampment, which has spurred similar demonstrations across the country and elsewhere across the world.
Also yesterday, a small group of other demonstrators, including local residents and merchants, protested at City Hall. In recent weeks, they have urged the mayor to clear out the park because of its negative impact on the neighbourhood and small businesses