The LAPD showed up in force before dawn this morning at #FortHernandez, the foreclosed Van Nuys house where Occupiers have been camped out since late August.
Turns out, the cops didn't come to evict anybody. Instead, they confiscated five couches, impounded a car and took protest signs, desks and other property that have been out at the curb for the last several weeks.
"They got here with a U-Haul truck, and the officers started pulling debris," says Antonio Hernandez, one of the residents of the house. "It was a total sneak attack."
The cops were there to accompany code enforcement officers from the Department of Building and Safety, said LAPD Cmdr. Andrew Smith. No one was arrested.
"We were there to keep the peace," Smith said. Asked whether it was typical to do code enforcement visits at 5:30 a.m., he said, "The reason we did that was so we could ensure everybody's safety."
Occupy protesters have been camping at the house on Leadwell Street for the last 40 days in protest of Bank of America and its foreclosure practices.
Prompted by media reports about the encampment, BofA has been negotiating a potential loan modification with the Hernandez family. However, the bank has given a Saturday deadline for
the family to turn in documents or face eviction.
According to Hernandez, the officers said they would have to move a plywood barricade 14 feet back from the curb. The cops have been around several times in the last few weeks to warn the Occupiers about leaving couches in the street.
By early afternoon, Hernandez said the Occupiers had gone around the neighborhood and found new couches to replace the ones that had been hauled away.
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The Hernandez family faces an Oct. 12 court date on a charge of storing property in a public street, said LAPD Capt. Brian Pratt. The family is also in danger of being cited for operating an illegal campground, Pratt said.
"A lot of community members are very enraged about what's happening," Pratt said. He said police have received complaints from neighbors about campers going door-to-door begging for food, as well as urinating in public due to inadequate bathroom facilities at the Hernandez home.
"We've been trying to work with the family, but they're taking on a siege mentality in not dealing with us," Pratt said.
Read more about #FortHernandez and the anniversary of Occupy L.A., in "The State of the Occupation: From City Hall to suburban Van Nuys, Occupy L.A. looks much different one year later."