Chief Beck: LAPD Will Evict Protesters “When It Makes the Most Sense”
At least three people were detained early Monday morning, but the protesters have been mostly cooperative and peaceful.
City Hall park was officially closed at 12:01 a.m. Monday, but police have still made no moves to evict the protesters.
Instead, their focus early Monday was on clearing the streets for morning commuters.
The LAPD went on a city-wide tactical alert at midnight as demonstrators gathered in the streets, waving signs, banging drums and chanting slogans.
Authorities announced that they would begin arresting people who remained in the streets after 4 a.m.
“We had a large crowd here in the intersection of First and Spring, and we asked them to basically get out of the intersection by the time the traffic started this morning,” LAPD Cmdr. Andy Smith said, adding that the protesters cooperated.
But about a block away, a crowd remained in the intersection at First and Main streets.
The LAPD declared an unlawful assembly, and instructed protesters over a loud speaker to vacate the intersection. They warned that anyone who did not comply would be arrested.
“It is not our intent to clear the park at this time. It is only our intent to clear the street,” police announced.
Hundreds of officers in riot gear slowly pushed the crowd out of the street.
Most of the demonstrators retreated to the sidewalk and park. One man was put in plastic cuffs and led away by officers just after 5 a.m.
Shortly after, some people threw a bottle and sticks at officers, briefly stirring up the crowd. At least two other people were detained.
The LAPD says it has been in continuous communication with the leaders of Occupy L.A. in hopes of avoiding violence.
“We had some real good cooperation from the folks form Occupy, and they helped calm down some of the folks who got excited,” Smith said.
Police emphasized that, even though they did not have any immediate plans to clear the park, the encampment will be dismantled.
“We will move people out of that park if they don’t go,” LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said on Monday.
“What the mayor and I said is that at 12:01 last night, it became illegal to be in that park,” he continued. “I’ve always said we will enforce that law on our own time schedule, and that time schedule will be based on when it makes the most sense.”
He said police will act when they are able to get the most people to leave the park voluntarily, and when they are able to get homeless people in the park to shelter.
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa echoed that sentiment in an appearance on the KTLA Morning News on Monday.
“When an enforcement action will occur will be at a time when its safe for our police officers and makes the most sense,” Villaraigosa said.
The mayor said the city informed the protesters about the deadline all weekend, and social workers have provided the homeless population in the park with information about access to shelters.
Fifty shelter beds will be opened on Monday for the homeless population of the camp with an additional Winter shelter opening on Thursday, with about 870 beds.
Villaraigosa also praised the LAPD for the way they handled the demonstrators Monday morning, saying they “were very, very restrained, and I was very proud of them.”
“The images youve seen across the country of people battling the police, you havent seen in this city,” Villaraigosa said.
The mayor said that the steps to City Hall will remain open during park hours for demonstrators to exercise their First Amendment rights to protest, but they will no longer be allowed to camp overnight.
“But it’s become crystal clear, and I’ve said it for a long time now, that it wasn’t sustainable to be there indefinitely,” Villaraigosa explained.
“They can engage in other forms of protest, like organizing and voting in this coming election.”
The mayor’s office has been negotiating with protesters for an end to the encampment due to health and safety concerns.
Serious crimes have more than doubled in the area around the encampment since it started, according to the LAPD.
The city also wants to clear the campers out to repair damage done to the lawn at City Hall.
Villariagosa said the full cost to the city from the ‘Occupy’ encampment, including damage to city property and increased police presence, has been upwards of $160,000.
“My hope is that we’ll be able to conclude this chapter peacefully… and we’ve made every effort to make that happen,” Villaraigosa said.
The Los Angeles encampment is among the oldest and largest on the West Coast, aligned with a two-month-old national Occupy Wall Street movement protesting economic inequality, high unemployment and excesses of the U.S. financial system.
Staking its place since October 1 on the grounds surrounding City Hall, the compound grew to roughly 400 tents and 700 to 800 people, at least a third of which are believed to be homeless, organizers said.
In the largest show of solidarity so far, protesters staged two loud, but mostly peaceful protests that resulted in 72 arrests.