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Occupy LA protesters return to demonstrate

Under the watchful eyes of police, about 175 protesters assembled on the steps of City Hall on Wednesday evening.
November 30, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
Occupy L.A. protesters on Wednesday evening returned to demonstrate at City Hall.

Under the watchful eyes of police, about 175 protesters assembled on the steps of City Hall about 6 p.m. Some held up signs, one of them read, "It's not over."

The protesters were planning their next big move after police cleared out their encampment. The overnight raid led to 292 arrests, but no serious injuries.

Masked sanitation workers Wednesday morning hauled away 25 tons of debris from the lawns after about 1,400 officers moved in and dismantled the two-month-old encampment.

Most of the demonstrators who resisted leaving the park were taken peacefully.

During a morning press conference, Police Chief Charlie Beck praised both officers and protesters for their restraint during the eviction. Beck credited open lines of communication with the protesters that his department established over the last few weeks.

"I want to thank the members of Occupation L.A. for keeping those promises, for being largely nonviolent and for staying on message during a difficult night," Beck said.

Defiant campers chanted slogans as the officers surrounded City Hall park. They booed when an unlawful assembly was declared, paving the way for officers to begin arresting those who refused to leave.

Police were seen cuffing the hands of protesters with white plastic zip-ties. At one point, a circle of protesters sat with their arms locked, many looking calm and smiling.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said the operation may have been the LAPD's finest moment.

"I couldn't be prouder of what I believe is maybe the finest moment in the history of the Los Angeles Police Department," he said.

But some protesters claimed they were violently removed from City Hall.

"A whole swarm of shields came at me, like a freight train, separated me from my family and my friends," said Laura Copeland.

Mike Scanlon observed the eviction for the group Peace in Action, and he said he didn't see any violence on the part of the LAPD.

"I think they were very restrained," he said. "It was a role model for the rest of the nation."

When asked about the claims of police violence, the LAPD said there were three minor incidents where they had to use force. One person was struck with a bean bag, one person was arrested for interfering with a police officer and another person was arrested for battery on a police officer.

After the tent city was cleared out, a massive cleanup effort was under way. Hazmat crews entered the park to clean up the encampment littered with trash, mattresses and tents. Authorities put up concrete barriers and 10-feet-tall fences around the park to prevent people from re-entering.

Villaraigosa said the cleanup and repair to the damaged lawn and park facilities would cost the city hundreds of thousands of dollars, possibly more than $1 million.

Citing sanitation and safety issues, the mayor had set a 12:01 a.m. Monday deadline for protesters to being dispersing from the lawn.

After the raid, protesters vowed to keep fighting.

"Occupy L.A. will not die. We will live, we will move forward and the Occupy movement will only become stronger," said protester Mario Brito during a news conference.

As they try to regroup, demonstrators said their goal now is a national moratorium on foreclosures, and they want the mayor to support their initiative.

"Banks, if you do not heed our call, expect to see our tents in your lobbies. Expect to see our tents in your board rooms. Expect to see our tents in your houses," Brito said.

Members of Occupy L.A. are outraged that those arrested are being held with bail set at $5,000 each. Police said they didn't want those arrested immediately returning to the campsite.

An attorney with the National Lawyers Guild called for the immediate release of the people arrested.

Guild attorney and board member Carol Sobel said the law requires "that anyone charged with a misdemeanor shall be released with a written notice to appear."

However, Chief Deputy City Attorney William Carter disputed the claim, saying the LAPD has a range of options under California Penal Code for dealing with arrested protesters.

"The code section cited by the guild is not mandatory," Carter said.

People who live and work in downtown Los Angeles had mixed feelings about the Occupy L.A. protest and overnight raid. Some thought the demonstration was an important expression of freedom of speech.

"I think what they're doing is brave. Somebody has to take a stand. You can't just forget about the poor people," said Terri White, who works downtown.

Others said it was time for the protesters to go.

"I know it was an annoyance for a lot of people in that area. It was a mess there. I'm glad that they're gone," said downtown resident Ryan Ranson.

See photos of protesters gathered around City Hall past the eviction deadline.

The Associated Press and City News Service contributed to this report.


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