Updated at the bottom: LAPD Chief Charlie Beck is negotiating with protesters, hoping Occupy L.A. will voluntarily dismantle "without confrontation."
Last night was a long one for uprooted protesters at Zuccotti Park in New York: Hundreds of cops reportedly swarmed the encampment, leaving shredded tents and terrorized citizenry in their wake. An estimated 70 protesters -- along with some reporters -- were arrested, and many more manhandled. Clearly, a bad night for all of America, and what we prefer to think this country stands for. (A similar eviction raid took place almost simultaneously in Oakland, prompting the city's deputy mayor to resign. Major props.)
So the Occupy L.A. encampment, which has impressively outsized Occupy Wall Street since this whole movement began almost two months ago...
... set out on a 100-strong solidarity march from City Hall to the (aptly corporate) Nokia Theater and back, just after midnight. CBS LA reports:
The LAPD declared a tactical alert after crowds marched against the flow of traffic and put both themselves and the public in danger.
A helicopter, eight police cars and officers in riot gear greeted protesters when they returned to the lawn of City Hall, but officers dispersed when the group's leaders promised police they would remain at the camp.
And here's some ABC7 footage of the police-protester tension.
Unlike in New York, where pepper spray and physical force were employed to frightening effect -- even a City Councilman was said to be bleeding from the head -- no violent actions were taken by L.A. protesters or responding police last night. However, @OccupyLA did Tweet, "We ask that they bring signs instead of batons and other weaponry next time. After all, we are a peaceful movement."
L.A. is hyper-aware that it could very well be next on the eviction list.
Although Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has arguably been more hands-off the Occupy camp than any other city leader -- instructing the LAPD to do the same, apparently for fear of losing the people's favor -- he's also made it clear that occupiers can't stay forever.
Plus, in an interview with BBC this morning, Oakland Mayor Quan let some scary news slip:
"I was recently on a conference call with 18 cities across the country who had the same situation," says Quan, who goes on to claim that the movement, in her opinion, had transition [sic] from a political movement to one marred by anarchists.
It's increasingly obvious that the 1-percenters (at least in an honorary sense) who run America's urban hubs are joining hands to Red-Rover the protesters off city property and back into their respective homes/homeless camps.
If our mayor has conspired in the least with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, lord knows what could lay ahead for Occupy L.A.
But legal advisers lending their services to Occupy camps across the country are also building on each other's strategies to stay. New York attorney Danny Alterman has just filed an injunction to reopen Zuccotti Park:
"We put together a set of papers on the fly, working nonstop throughout the night, and around 3 o'clock in the morning contacted Judge Lucy Billings of the New York State Supreme Court, who agreed to meet us between 5 and 6 a.m. to review our request for a temporary restraining order, restraining the police from evicting the protesters at Liberty Park, exclusive of lawful arrest for criminal offenses, and, most importantly, enforcing the rules published after the occupation began almost two months ago--or otherwise preventing protesters from re-entering Liberty Park with tents and other property utilized therein," Alterman says. Judge Billings signed the order before 6:30 a.m., and a court hearing is set for today.
For the last few weeks, we've been hearing likeminded murmurs from within the Occupy L.A. camp. Two different organizers told us that legal counsel had been informing protesters that they might be able to claim "squatter's rights" in the face of eviction threat. (We've called a few lawyers to test the feasibility of that approach.)
For now, L.A. protesters are safe on the dead lawn of City Hall. But this calm can't last forever -- especially if more OWS brethren head over for the winter. Updates to come as city politicians and police squirm their way out of this mess.
Update, 10:30 a.m.: Occupy Phoenix is being raided. Three down...
Update, 10:45 a.m.: This is all not to say that the 99 percent won't fight to Occupy however they can. The Village Voice reports that a temporary (?) camp has been set up at Sixth and Canal in New York. Knowing the determination at the core of the L.A. group, we'd predict something to that effect, were we to get swept off the City Hall lawn.
Update: LAPD Chief Charlie Beck tells the Los Angeles Times that the Occupy L.A. camp is "not sustainable ecologically and it's only going to get worse and worse. We need to find either a different location or a different medium for them to use."
He seems to think Occupy organizers may be willing to uproot themselves, though we've never gotten anywhere near that impression. Still, the Times paraphrases Beck as claiming protesters are working with him on "a timeline for closing down the camp." More from the interview:
He declined to discuss specifics but told The Times he hopes the Occupy L.A. encampment will be dismantled without the confrontations seen in Oakland, New York and elsewhere.
Members of the Occupy L.A. camp -- which has commandeered the City Hall lawn for weeks -- police, and city officials are scheduled to meet Tuesday for the latest in a series of negotiations, Beck said. "I expect it will be a long one," he said.
Negotiations, sure. We know how those occupiers love to talk. But compromise? Highly unlikely. If the chief pulls that one off, somehow convincing campers it was their idea -- all the while avoiding the public outcry the NYPD inspired last night -- he'll be the hero of every politician and law-enforcement entity in the country.