Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Latest from Occupation LA

Occupy LA intensifies as cops prepare for crackdown

Early Monday morning, Occupy LA protesters were ordered to evacuate their campsite and if they failed to comply people would be arrested. Dozens upon dozens of Los Angeles police were suited up in riot gear to prepare for the mass arrests. The mayor had given the protesters until midnight to vacate the premises, but hundreds more gathered. Ramon Galindo has the latest.

Occupy L.A.: Facing Eviction, May Branch Out To Occupy Beverly Hills, Skid Row

Huffington Post,
28 November, 2011

After a tense all-nighter with the Los Angeles Police Department, Occupy L.A. activists and their tents outside City Hall have been given a temporary reprieve.

The police re-opened the streets around City Hall to traffic Monday morning and essentially left Occupy L.A. alone. Four activists had been arrested -- hardly the anticipated outcome from either side.

Late Friday, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa declared 12:01 a.m. Monday as the deadline by which Occupy L.A. had to vacate City Hall Park. In a letter to the activists, he wrote: "The Occupy movement is now at a crossroads."

Villaraigosa did not give an explicit explanation as to why he wanted the park cleared of the occupation's 500 tents, food service and library.

Peter Sanders, the mayor's senior press secretary, said in an email Monday afternoon that the mayor "respects Occupy L.A.'s right to exercise their freedom of speech but that going forward, tents will not be allowed in City Hall Park and the laws regarding city parks will be enforced."

If the mayor thought his threat Friday would send Occupy L.A. members scattering to off-site locations, he was wrong. Sunday night's general assembly was packed. When a moderator asked how many people were attending the assembly meeting for the first time, many hands shot up.

But Occupy L.A.'s continuing general assemblies might be short lived. Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck told reporters at a Monday morning press conference that the eviction will happen.

"We will enforce the law on our own time schedule," Beck said. Rumors had already begun that the eviction could come Monday at noon.

The Occupy L.A. activists have been just as adamant about holding their ground.

"We're not going away," PJ Davenport assured The Huffington Post.

"We knew that the eviction order was coming down," Davenport said. "But you can't help but feel cheated yet again by your local government when they tell you that your time is up and you need to move elsewhere."

Yet some within Occupy L.A. are already considering such a move, Davenport conceded.

Los Angeles is a sprawling city with 9.8 million residents and a nearly endless stretch of distinct neighborhoods, enclaves and cultures. Post-eviction, activists aren't thinking about shrinking. They're thinking about franchising. Instead of one space, how about 50 spaces? Instead of Occupy L.A., how about Occupy Beverly Hills and an Occupy Skid Row?

"You will see tents across the metro area," Davenport suggested. "If they're not allowed at City Hall, you will see them around City Hall."

"None of us are interested in working out of an office," Occupy L.A. activist Joan Donovan insisted. "We want real change. We hope that we show that by occupying, we are extremely serious."

Donovan said the idea of diversifying into several spaces may grow out of necessity -- and a way to empower the leaders who grew up through the City Hall space.

"We don't know if we are going to get space this big again," she explained. "The tactic would be to let all the people who became leaders here to begin the process somewhere else ... It would be awesome if there was an Occupy Beverly Hills. It would be the perfect opportunity to talk to tourists about how to better spend their money, how to be better citizens. The idea is to get people to think."

There's serious talk, Donovan said, of an occupation starting up in Los Feliz. And others are talking about Occupying Rodeo Drive. The greater Los Angeles area already boasts an Occupy Long Beach, an Occupy Venice and an Occupy Pasadena, among other spots.

"There are people talking about doing a more permanent occupation of Skid Row," said Jeremy Rothe-Kushel, an Occupy L.A. activist. "The other possibilities are fully on the table. I think there's going to be a negotiation about centralization vs. decentralization."

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