LAPD Peacefully Clears Occupy L.A. [Updated]
Los Angeles police arrested almost 300 people by early Wednesday at the Occupy L.A. camp at City Hall.
Over 1,400 police officers were able to avoid major violence and confrontation as they cleared out the campsites in less than 10 minutes from City Hall's south lawn. By 5:10 a.m. Wednesday, the encampment was completely cleared, said LAPD spokesman Cleon Joseph.
Occupy L.A. began on Oct. 1 and was the nation's largest remaining "Occupy" camp until last night. Last week, the city declared that overnight camping on City Hall's south lawn would be unlawful starting 12:01 a.m. Monday.
Those who were arrested at the site and the area around the Civic Center will face misdemeanor charges for failing to comply with LAPD's declaration to disperse an unlawful assembly. Bail is being set at $5,000.
Before closing in on the park, police officers first met outside of Dodger Stadium for preparation. According to the LATimes, a LAPD supervisor told a group of officers that "they need to be prepared for some protesters to fight back." In response, some officers wore white protective body suits.
Additionally, Occupy L.A. founding members and supporters called for a nonviolent resolution. "We celebrate the accomplishments of the Occupy movement and unequivocally call on all sides to ensure a nonviolent resolution to the encampment at City Hall," Occupy L.A. leaders stated in a press release. They continue to acknowledge that their movement in L.A. and across the country changed the discussion about the national economy.
Once the raid began, there were around 500 protesters in and around the park on 1st Street between Main and Spring streets.
A group of 80 protesters were arrested after they locked arms in a "circle of peace" and refused to leave. Officers even had to take down protesters from trees. LAPD spokesman Kevin Mailberger said officers were lifted in cherry pickers called "bat cats" to bring protesters down.
[Updated | Nov. 30 10:26 a.m. Police arrested 290 protesters for failure to disperse. One was arrested for interfering with an officer, and another protester was arrested for battery on an officer.]
Once all of the protesters were cleared out, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and LAPD Chief Charlie Beck arrived at the scene shortly after 3:30 a.m. to survey the police operation. Villaraigosa called the operation "a phenomenal job." Beck added that he was proud of his 1,400 police officers who "acted with a minimal use of force." He continued that he has "never been prouder of the Los Angeles Police force."
Now that all of the protesters are gone, the L.A. Parks department will be assessing the damage done to the area. "I know that part of the irrigation system has been compromised, the lawn was destroyed and some of the trees were damaged, so [the Parks department] has to figure out a plan for repairs," Mailberger said.
Several Hollywood freeway exit ramps were closed from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. to keep motorists away from the Civic Center during the operation, said California Highway Patrol Officer Anthony Martin. Streets in downtown were also shut down near Civic Center to avoid any more Occupy L.A. supporters from joining the protest.
Early Wednesday morning, there was a four block street closure around City Hall. The closed streets are between Broadway and Los Angeles Street and Second Street to Temple Street.
[Update | Nov. 30 11:19 a.m. The streets that were closed around City Hall overnight have been reopened except for southbound Spring Street between Temple and First Streets.]
Overall, Los Angeles Police Protective League President Paul Weber praised the LAPD for handling the situation properly. "Amid ever-changing political winds, LAPD officers have adhered to the highest standards of law enforcement in dealing with Occupy L.A. protesters over the past two months."
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