City Hall courtyard liberated

For the first time since Occupy Philadelphia began its protest nearly four weeks ago, Philadelphia police have restored public access to the City Hall courtyard, opening the chain-link gates on three of the building's four sides.

The archway on the west side of City Hall, facing a plaza full of demonstrators with tents, signs, tables, platforms and other protest paraphernalia, is still blocked off by cyclone fencing and a police cruiser.

But with the other arches opened Monday morning, and metal pedestrian-control barriers removed, foot traffic through the courtyard resumed immediately.

Police spokesman Ray Evers said the mayor's office and the police department talked over the situation and Mayor Nutter decided to remove the fencing and reopen the courtyard.  "We thought it was in the best interest of the rest of the city," Evers said. "It was definitely a hindrance to people trying to walk around or get into the building."

The courtyard will continue to be off-limits for tents or other structures, and closed off after nightfall.

Though reduced from last week, the police complement stationed around City Hall remains higher than usual.  The latest estimate on taxpayer costs associated with the protest is about $100,000 a week, mostly the cost of police overtime.