Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced late this afternoon that City Hall Park, the home of Occupy L.A. for the last 56 days, will close at 12:01 a.m. on Monday.
LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said that police would move to clear the park at some later, unspecified time, after Occupiers have been given ample notice to clear out.
The announcement was met with defiance both inside City Hall — where an Occupier managed to disrupt the mayor's press conference — and outside.
“We're not moving,” said Manny, a protester who gave only his first name.
In a letter to Occupy L.A., Villaraigosa praised the group for changing the terms of the national political debate, and for having “awakened the country's conscience.” However, he continued, “The Occupy movement is now at a crossroads.”
“The movement faces the question of how it can build on its initial success,” Villaraigosa wrote. “It is a question of whether energy will be consumed to defend a particular patch of earth or whether that energy will be channeled to spreading the message of economic equality and signing more people up for the push to restore the balance to American society.”
For their part, the Occupiers seem all too eager to defend their particular patch of earth. There has been talk of bringing a large contingent of labor and leftist clergy to protest the eviction, or perhaps try to block it. The National Lawyers Guild has issued a flier advising Occupiers what to do in case of arrest. Many of the Occupiers are self-described “sovereigns,” who assert that police officials have no authority over them.
Still others have been meeting for the past three weeks to prepare a post-eviction plan. The Raid Preparations Committee, later renamed the “Preparations and Reconstruction Committee,” has been working on obtaining gas masks and determining fallback meeting places.
“It's not a picnic anymore,” said Jared Iorio, one of the Occupy moderators.
Occupy L.A. members have said they hope to learn from the Occupy protests in other cities. In some cases, the police have succeeded in evicting the encampments, only to see protesters return the next day.
City officials have also learned from others' experiences, and say they plan to “secure” the park area while it is being rehabilitated. Once the grass has been restored — and it's not clear how long that will take — officials say the park will reopen during its posted hours — 5 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. In the meantime, the west steps of City Hall will remain open for public protest during park hours.
At a General Assembly meeting on Wednesday, author Deepak Chopra urged the Occupiers to continue their efforts.
“The Occupy movement is unstoppable,” Chopra said. “If next week, they evict us, move somewhere else close by and occupy! If they evict us again, move again!”