Occupy L.A. defies vacate order with a party

10:03 AM, Nov 28, 2011   |    comments
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(CBS/APLOS ANGELES - Wall Street protesters in Los Angeles defied the mayor's early Monday deadline to vacate their encampment near City Hall, with about 1,000 demonstrators flooding into the area as the village of hundreds of tents remained standing as it has for nearly two months.

A celebratory atmosphere filled the night outside City Hall and the encampment near it: a group of protesters on bicycles circled the block, one of them in a cow suit, while organizers led chants with a bull horn.

"The best way to keep a non-violent movement non-violent is to throw a party, and keep it festive and atmospheric," said Brian Masterson.

Shortly after the 12:01 a.m. PST Monday deadline, there was only a small police presence, about two dozen motorcycle officers who remained across the street from the camp.

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Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said earlier that the grounds would be closed after the deadline, while Police Chief Charlie Beck promised that arrests would eventually be made if protesters did not comply.

But in a statement issued shortly before midnight, the mayor said police "will allow campers ample time to remove their belongings peacefully and without disruption."

Villaraigosa said police and social workers will walk through the park handing out information on the closure and services available, and expressed hope it would happen in a "spirit of cooperation."

But many including the protest's chief organizers said they had no intention of cooperating, and only a handful of campers cleared out over the weekend.

"Until the grievances of the 99 percent are addressed to end corporate control of the system, the government and the media, Occupy LA will be here exercising our 1st Amendment rights," Julie Levine, one of several Occupy spokespeople, told the Los Angeles Times on Sunday.

People poured into the grounds as the deadline approached, likely many of them answering calls on Facebook and Twitter to come out and show solidarity.

The mayor did not say what tactics authorities would use for those who refuse to leave - or when they will begin using them.

Masterson said he had turned his own tent into a "non-violent booby trap" by filling it with sandbags to make it tough to tear down.

"We can't beat the LAPD, but we can make it difficult for them to do their job, and have fun while we're doing it," Masterson said.

Some campers packed up their tents and belongings to avoid police trouble, but said they intended to return without them in support of their fellow protesters.

Scott Shuster was one of those breaking down his camp, but he said it was only to protect his property and he planned to remain.

"I just don't want to lose my tent," he said.

Others moved their tents to the sidewalk so they were technically out of the park.

Villaraigosa, a former labor organizer himself, has said he sympathizes with the movement but that he felt it was time it moved beyond holding on to "a particular patch of park."

Beyond that, the mayor said, public health and safety could not be sustained for a long period.

Police, for their part, have said little about what tactic they would take if protesters ignore the deadline.

Chief Charlie Beck told the Los Angeles Times in an interview published Sunday that he expected to make arrests at some point.

"I have no illusions that everybody is going to leave," Beck said. "We anticipate that we will have to make arrests."

Meanwhile, a deadline set by the city for Occupy Philadelphia to leave the site where it has camped for some two months passed without scuffles or arrests Sunday as police watched and protesters sang and spoke of their dreams -- while some prepared for the possibility of arrest.

Occupy Philadelphia has managed to avoid aggressive confrontations so far, and on Sunday night there was hope the City of Brotherly Love would continue to be largely violence-free.

"Right now, we have a peaceful demonstration," said Philadelphia Police Chief Inspector Joe Sullivan, nearly 45 minutes after the 5 p.m. deadline. By 11 p.m., the crowd had thinned a bit, but the calm remained.

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