Occupy Los Angeles activists said Saturday they intend to continue inhabiting their protest site on the grounds of City Hall despite a fast-approaching deadline for their eviction set by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. As a mark of their determination, very few of the protesters have been seen taking down their tents.
Villaraigosa and Police Chief Charlie Beck addressed a news conference on Friday where the mayor made a couple of points about the LA manifestation of the Occupy Wall Street movement that has spread from New York to other cities during the past two months. On the one hand, it has been helpful in awakening the country's conscience; on the other hand, it has been hurtful in trampling the grass around City Hall.
It is time to close the park and repair the grounds so that we can restore public access to the park, Villaraigosa said. He also contended the Occupy movement is at a crossroads and that it is time for them [the protesters] to move from holding a particular patch of park to spreading the message of economic justice.
Villaraigosa has requested the demonstrators to leave their campsite by 12.01 a.m. local time on Monday, citing public health and safety as his main reasons. In response, the site was abuzz with activity on Saturday, most aimed at preparing for clashes with public officials and staying safe on Monday. Many protesters attended classes on dealing with weapons that could be employed against them, such as tear gas, rubber bullets, and pepper spray.
The demonstrators even distributed mock invitations to a Monday morning eviction block party in a style similar to the city's eviction notices.
The Los Angeles camp is 56 days old, making it one of the oldest and largest Occupied sites on the U.S. West Coast and one that the protesters do not want to give up easily.
Will Picard, one of the demonstrators, told The Associated Press that the primary leaders and most Occupiers he had conversed with intended to stay.
Their plan is to resist the closure of this encampment, and if that means getting arrested, so be it, Picard said, I think they just want to make the police tear it down rather than tear it down themselves.
However, a few protesters went the other way and agreed with the mayor that the Occupation had run its course.
The Occupy LA compound surrounding City Hall was created Oct. 1, and, according to organizers and municipal officials, it has since grown to roughly 500 tents and between 700 and 800 people.
However, Villaraigosa, who provided ponchos to the campers when it rained, said he was firm on the eviction deadline.
It took a couple of hours to put up those tents, the mayor said, It only takes a couple of hours to take them down. He noted the eviction would be handled differently from the crackdowns seen in other cities, such as Oakland.
Villaraigosa was primarily referring to incidents at the Occupy Oakland encampment, whose shutdown by police officials was plagued by violence.
We've not stared each other down across barricades and barbed wire, the mayor said.
This is a national movement that the city of Los Angeles wanted to accommodate as best we could, Beck said, We have been reasonable. We have given 56 days.