LOS ANGELES (CBS) — A top aide to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa notified Occupy L.A. protesters Wednesday that they will be given orders next week — possibly as early as Monday — to vacate the City Hall lawn, prompting representatives for the group to walk out of an afternoon meeting with city officials.
“The mayor made it clear today that we have only days left, rather than weeks,” said National Lawyers Guild Director Jim Lafferty, who has been working with the Occupy L.A. protesters.
Lafferty said the group was told that the city would give notice next week that the City Hall lawn will be closed, and Occupy L.A. campers would have 72 hours to take their belongings and leave, or face possible arrest.
Matt Szabo, Villaraigosa’s deputy chief of staff, said he told the group the City Hall park would be closed next week, but he denied specifying a 72-hour period for protesters to vacate the property.
“We told them the City Hall park would at some point next week be closed for rehabilitation. We informed the group they would receive ample notice before the closure,” Szabo said, adding that the length of time campers are given to leave would be determined by LAPD officials.
“We didn’t talk about any of the deals or any of the gifts or handouts. All we talked about was the camp closure,” said Occupy LA negotiating team member Ryan Rice.
“Some point next week, they’re going to give an ample notice in the form of paper evictions, but next week the park will be closed,” Rice added.
Earlier in the week, the mayor’s office had offered Occupy L.A. protesters incentives to leave City Hall by Monday.
They included leasing the protesters 10,000 square feet of office space in the Los Angeles Mall for only $1 and land for Occupy L.A. to use as a community garden.
Lafferty said it would have taken weeks to get the hundreds of protesters to discuss and agree on the incentives.
“You can’t possibly expect a beautiful democratic, but wild-and-woolly process like the General Assembly to be able in the matter of a few days, including the holiday weekend, to come up with a list of proposals and demands,” he said, adding that the ultimatum made negotiations unproductive and led him to walk out.
Lafferty called the breakdown in negotiations disappointing, saying the two sides could have come to a”remarkably unique and beneficial resolution of this occupation.”
According to Lafferty, the Lawyers Guild will use the next few days to prepare a legal defense for protesters, including ways to pre-empt the eviction and ways to defend people who might be arrested if they choose not to obey the closure.
“We want to make it very clear that we will be non-violent,” said Mario Brito, a vocal protester who was in the meeting with Szabo. “We will not react in violence if evacuation occurs.”