LAPD Raids Occupy Los Angeles
An unlawful assembly was declared around 12:30 a.m., two hours after 10:30 p.m. deadline that was given for the park closure.
As crowds swelled, police began to block off traffic around the park at about 9:45 p.m. in anticipation of the night's events. One Occupy protester told Neon Tommy that they were expecting 16 buses carrying more than 300 officers to the Downtown area from Dodger Stadium. According to reports, more than 1,000 police actually showed up.
Mayor Antonio Villariagosa released a statement shortly after the park's closure. It read in part:
We have taken a measured approach to enforcing the park closure because we have wanted to give people every opportunity to leave peacefully. I ask that anyone who remains in the park to please leave voluntarily.Our approach also recognized the human need in the encampment. Since the park closure was announced on Friday, outreach workers with the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority have walked through the park, assessing needs and connecting interested individuals in need with an alternative place to spend the night.During the park closure, a First Amendment area will remain open on the Spring Street City Hall steps.Once the park is cleared, it will be repaired and returned to all Angelenos to exercise their First Amendment rights.
While the shutdown removes the movement's central location for the past 60 days, Occupy L.A. demonstrators say the movement is far from over. Several events have already been scheduled for December, including a demonstration at the Port of Los Angeles on December 12.
Around the country, similar raids led to violence that L.A. officials sought to avoid. But days after losing their permanent locations, many Occupy groups sprung back up at different locations, often turning to different tactics than pitching tents.
Many Occupiers had packed up and left, or moved their stuff to storage, since the initial eviction order on Friday. Yet, many faithful remained behind, unafraid of being arrested.
Tim Ottman, one of the protesters at the scene was linking arms with 20 others at center camp. "I'm ready to be arrested." he said. "Something big is happening tonight. We made them mad Sunday."
"I'm not trying to get arrested. But if they get me, they get me," said Sam Gray, a veteran of the War in Iraq.
Chants heard at various points in the night included "All night, all day, Occupy LA," "I will not be removed from the Occupation of L.A." and "This is what Democracy looks like!"
At one point, fireworks were launched over the camp, causing the crowd to erupt into cheers.
In anticipation of the raid, the north side camp was moving bodies and tents to south side. Protesters also blocked off the southwest entrance to City Hall park with trash cans, chairs, tents and a Road Closed sign. Occupiers were reportedly armed with anti-mace spray.
The Los Angeles Times reported that "an area from Temple Street on the north to 3rd Street on the south and Alameda Street on the east and Broadway on the west was closed off" by police prior to the raid.
The shutdown came roughly 48 hours after the city imposed deadline to evacuate.
Mayor Villaraigosa and L.A. Police Chief Charlie Beck on Friday called for the park where protesters were camped to be closed at 12:01 a.m. on Monday. The plan was then to enforce the closure at some point. Police dressed in riot gear had closed in on the camp early Monday, but hours after the deadline came and went, tents were still up in the Occupy encampment following a night in which. Four people were arrested before police ultimately withdrew without shutting down the camp.
Still, in the days since, at least half of the tents have been taken down, and, according to the Los Angeles Times, many of the women and children had been sleeping there have left. Reuters estimated that at its peak on Sunday, more than 2,000 protesters were gathered in front of City Hall. By late Monday, the crowds had dwindled down to several hundred.
Villaraigosa said Tuesday that he decided to shut it down when he learned that children were staying there, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Reacting to the potential shutdown, demonstraters sought a court order Monday morning to prevent police from dismantling the tent city that has taken up the lawn for about eight weeks. The protesters have asserted that Villaraigosa and Beck have infringed on their 1st Amendment rights by ordering them to vacate the City Hall lawn.
The Washington Post reported that legal observers from the National Lawyers guild were on hand at City Hall park for any possible evictions overnight.
Before the raid, LAPD Commander Andrew Smith told Neon Tommy reporter Benjamin Gottlieb that he was "just hoping for a quiet evening tonight and tomorrow."
Rumors had swirled early Tuesday evening that the Occupy camp was bracing for an imminent police raid Tuesday night. Twitter and other social media were abuzz with messages noting a heightened LAPD mobilization at staging points not far from the camp around City Hall. Police staged at nearby Dodger Stadium, boarding buses--not their usual patrol cars--in order to get the park.
Occupy activists were issuing calls at 8:00 p.m. for supporters to come defend the camp. The raid was expected to happen around 10 p.m.
The Occupy L.A. protesters have been camped out at City Hall park since October 1.
At least one Occupy encampment will be up until at least the beginning of next year, however. According to LA Weekly, the camp set up at East Los Angeles City College will be allowed to stay until January.
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