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Occupy Wall Street protesters head to Van Nuys

October 29, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
The Occupy Wall Street movement in Southern California is expanding, as demonstrators branched out beyond Los Angeles City Hall on Saturday.

About 30 to 35 protesters occupied the Van Nuys Civic Center, which is flanked by the Los Angeles Police Department on one side and federal buildings and Van Nuys Superior Court on the other.

Protestors said they chose the location because it is the heart of the San Fernando Valley.

"In front of the courthouse because it symbolizes that we are demanding justice," said protestor Amber Barrero. "There is a lot of government buildings around, so we could reach out to them and they could hopefully support our movement."

Occupy San Fernando Valley activists want to give Valley residents a place to demonstrate closer to home than L.A. City Hall. However, police don't plan on letting the plaza become an encampment. The area is closed from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. every day, and being on the property during those hours is considered trespassing.

Occupy San Fernando Valley organizers say they want to exercise their right to free speech, and they plan to maintain a presence at the Van Nuys Civic Center after 7 p.m., even if that means moving onto the sidewalk.

Meanwhile at Occupy L.A. the focus was on future generations, as more than 40 high school students from South Los Angeles, Compton and Inglewood learned about the movement. The effort was organized by the youth-outreach program Good Jobs L.A.

Students were able to ask protestors at the downtown site questions and also helped make signs. Some of them are very clear on what the movement is trying to do and what they think needs to be changed.

"This economy and the government should really not be this greedy," said South L.A. student Shamvoy Smith. "They should give and they should care about the people out here. Because we are trying to tell them what's wrong and they are not listening. They are trying to tell us when we are the ones who are living it."

The LAPD and city officials have been working with the Occupy L.A. movement, allowing protesters to camp out at City Hall for the past month. However, L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa says the encampment cannot continue indefinitely. One of the reasons is because the fig trees and the grass need water.

Technically, it's against the law to camp at L.A. city parks after 10:30 p.m. The LAPD says they will enforce the law at the Van Nuys Civic Center.

"We have made concessions so this can be a place where OLA can make themselves heard, and they can still make themselves heard in Van Nuys, but we're not going to modify the rules of that Civic Center," said LAPD Chief Charlie Beck.

So far, the Occupy L.A. movement in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street has been peaceful.

In San Diego, police arrested more than 50 demonstrators at the city's Civic Center Plaza on Friday. Officials declared the 3-week-old event an unlawful assembly, giving police the green light to clear the campers.

San Diego police said there had been numerous complaints about unsanitary conditions created by human and animal feces, urination, drug use and littering, as well as damage to city property.

Meantime, Occupy Wall Street protestors in Nashville, Tenn. have been removed from Capitol Hill for a second straight day, but they're promising to return.

Tennessee's safety commissioner said he decided to instill a curfew after consulting with the governor's staff. They were concerned about deteriorating safety and sanitary conditions.

However, also for the second time, a night judge refused to jail the protestors, saying the state had not given them enough time to comply.

A new policy bans overnight occupancy of any state property and calls for enforcing permits, just like when any other groups use the plaza.

In Atlanta, Ga., repair work is beginning at a park where Occupy Wall Street protestors set up camp.

City officials said all the grass at Woodruff Park has to be replaced and the mulch has to be redone. Also, several tents punctured the irrigation system, so that has to be reworked as well. The repairs are estimated to cost $30,000.

Across the pond, legal steps are being taken to evict anti-capitalist protestors camped outside St. Paul's Cathedral in London.

The cathedral reopened Friday after being closed a week ago.

Cathedral officials said the site had become a health and safety hazard because of the demonstrators camping out.

That was the first time the 300-year-old cathedral had closed since German planes bombed London during World War II.

City officials said it could take weeks or months to get an order to remove the tent city.

See photos of Occupy L.A. protestors at City Hall.


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