Hundreds of anti-Wall Street protesters in Los Angeles were bracing Monday for eviction from a park near city hall, with some packing up to avoid confrontation and others digging in to resist police.
But hours before a midnight park closure, LA’s mayor said campers would be given “ample time” to leave and appealed to them to go peacefully, as the city seeks to avoid clashes with riot police seen elsewhere in recent weeks.
While the park was ordered closed from midnight (0800 GMT), police “will allow campers ample time to remove their belongings peacefully and without disruption,” mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said in a statement Sunday evening.
“I am proud of the fact that this has been a peaceful, non-violent protest … because we have done things differently in Los Angeles. I trust that we can manage the closure of City Hall Park in the same spirit of cooperation.”
The deadline has now passed without police charging the encampment. But scores of baton-wielding officers have surrounded the park, preventing the protesters from moving into adjacent streets.
“We’re going to do this as gently as possible,” Police Commander Andrew Smith told The Los Angeles Times. “Our goal is to not arrest anybody.”
The movement was nearing a critical point in time after Villaraigosaon Friday ordered the protesters to leave the spot where they have been rallying since October, citing public safety concerns.
The group called a rally in front of city hall late Sunday to send a message to officials — and by mid evening there were some 1,000 protestors and 500 tents, according to an AFP correspondent.
A group of 25 protesters from the Occupy San Diego camp came today in support of the LA movement. “We stand in solidarity with OLA. We came to make a statement because we need change,” Claudia Acevedo, 44, told AFP.
Asked if she was ready to be arrested, she said it was “part of the civic protest movement .. we know it can happen and we have to make change peacefully because anyone can lose their home here, the economy is very fragile.”
Ryan, 25, music producer, said he came in support and is “planning to stay, but I’m in a kind of a financial situation and I don’t want people that care about me to bail me out”, so he would go if police start raids.
Nicole Lee, in her 60s and a volunteer worker, said: “This is a breath of fresh air. Finally people are waking up. … I was here in the 60s and I feel this might be a new beginning.”
Banners read: “First Amendment right is not unlawful Assembly,” “This is not a hippie movement,” and “Fight the Power and transform the People for Revolution.”
“Preparing for raid: Those who are staying need: 1) cigarettes (for stress), 2) Blankets, 3) Hot food, H20 4) Music, 5) Love, 6) Your understanding,” said another.
The mayor announced Friday the park would be temporarily closing out of concern for the public safety implications of a long-term encampment — the camp was set up on October 1, eight weeks ago.
An extra 50 beds for homeless demonstrators will be set up at local shelters, Villaraigosa said.
The Occupy Wall Street movement started in September as a ragtag march on New York’s Financial District to protest against corporate greed and income inequality.
It quickly mushroomed into a national movement centered on tent camps in New York, Washington, Oakland, California and other cities.
In Philadelphia, a 5:00 pm (2200 GMT) deadline to leave passed Sunday without all protesters vacating their downtown camp.
Although the initial crowd of thousands thinned considerably, a group of about 50 sat down, pledging to stay until they were arrested.
The police presence was light and the situation remained peaceful.