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Occupy LA sees fallout from downtown community

August 21, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
Downtown Los Angeles businesses and neighborhood groups say city leaders are failing the community by not policing the Pershing Square area during daily Occupy Los Angeles demonstrations.

They say the Occupiers are ruining the park and threatening surrounding businesses. As a result, the president of the Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council is pleading with city leaders to do something to solve the problem.

Occupy Los Angeles has been at Pershing Square since police raided their encampment outside City Hall last November. Now local business owners say they have lost money because customers are too afraid or too uncomfortable to be in the area. The Pershing Square Famers Market has also seen a 40 percent drop in business.

The homeless population in Pershing Square increased after Occupy LA was removed from City Hall. According to the Pershing Square Advisory Board, about 60 occupiers visit the park between Hill and Olive streets every day.

But the General Services Police, who secure the park, say it's safer now than it was months ago. They said there are more officers in the park, more private security and more LAPD officers on the streets.

Sgt.Joe Tafoya with the General Services Police said that in the beginning, when Occupy protesters moved to the park, there was an increase in disturbances. But he doesn't see a need now for increased policing.

"From what we're looking at, it's more of just disturbances that have occurred -- arguments between people, sometimes fights between Occupy LA members themselves," said Tafoya.

Occupy Los Angeles is the local arm of the national protest movement against wealth and disparity in the United States. Right now, they are targeting a lobby group for downtown businesses to protest a plan that seeks to build new high rises and the proposed AEG Stadium. Occupy says the developments will come at the expense of the homeless.

Recently, the protesters have drawn on sidewalks to communicate their messages, which sparked a disturbance at the Art Walk in July.

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