SEATTLE -- Occupy Seattle protesters were ordered out of Westlake Park by Seattle police on Thursday morning, but many had returned by the afternoon despite the city's continued insistence that protesters cannot remain in the park overnight.
The protesters planned to hold an assembly at 6:30 p.m. at the park to discuss their plans. On Wednesday, the group approved plans to stage a large rally in the park on Saturday, and supporters were urged to bring tents
Mayor Mike McGinn wants Occupy Seattle activists to move from Westlake to City Hall Plaza, where they are welcome to camp. Earlier this week, he said the city will enforce rules against camping and non-sanctioned activity in Westlake Park in the retail core. The city will provide permits for First Amendment uses during regular park hours.
On Thursday morning, about 10 police officers arrived at Westlake around 9:30 a.m. and told about 75 demonstrators who had spent the night that the city was enforcing the no-camping rule at the park "starting right now."
Some of the protesters packed up their possessions and moved out, while others simply relocated across the street. Officers and protesters squared off when police told them to move. Protesters eventually left and no arrests were made. Later in the morning, an union rally unrelated to Occupy Seattle was held in the park.
Possible police action later Thursday was hinted at in an alert issued by King County Metro warning riders that "potential protest activity" could lead to service delays or route changes for "buses running on the surface near the Westlake mall area and in the tunnel at the Westlake Station."
A few protesters on Thursday morning said they'd be willing to get arrested to keep the protest going.
"I don't think anyone is really worried about anything because it just keeps getting bigger and bigger every day," said Sarah Sandhoff, protester.
Asked Thursday how downtown businesses feel about the protest, Kate Jonas, director of the Downtown Seattle Association, said, "We are confident about how the mayor is handling it. We are approaching it quietly."
Some downtown retailers have expressed concerns about the coming holiday season with demonstrators occupying Westlake Park.
After being cleared out of the park Thursday morning, about 25 Occupy Seattle participants headed to City Hall, where Mayor McGinn has said they were welcome. Later, some Occupy Seattle supporters joined up with union members to protest outside the Grand Hyatt in downtown, where GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney was holding a noon fundraiser.
The protesters carried signs that said, "This is class warfare," "Make Wall Street pay," and "Romney is the 1 percent" -- a reference to what the demonstrators describe as the concentration of wealth among a small slice of the population.