LOS ANGELES (CBS) — Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is evicting the Occupy L.A. protesters from the City Hall lawn, ordering them to move by Monday.
During a press conference Friday, Villaraigosa was joined by LAPD Chief Charlie Beck in commending the Occupy movement for “raising America’s awareness” of economic and social inequalities and the need for reform, but, ultimately, told them to do it elsewhere.
Demonstrators were given until 12:01 a.m. Monday, Nov. 28, to pack up their belongings and leave.
Protesters interrupted Villaraigosa and Beck several times throughout the announcement to say that they objected the proposal.
The mayor said police officers would begin handing out flyers, in both English and Spanish, notifying them of the closure. Social workers would also be sent to inform protesters of social and public health services that were available. He said protesters would be allowed to park along Spring Street to load their gear. As of Monday, Villaraigosa said 50 shelter beds would be made available to protesters who were homeless and needed an alternative place to spend the night.
“I’m proud of the fact that this has been a peaceful, nonviolent protest,” Villaraigosa said. “It’s been peaceful because we decided to do things differently here, in Los Angeles — not stare each other down across barricades and barbed wire. From the start, we’ve talked to one another and we’ve listened to each other. I trust that we can manage the closure of City Hall Park in the same spirit of cooperation.”
Earlier in the week, the mayor’s office had offered Occupy L.A. protesters incentives to move, which 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.
James Lafferty, an attorney with the National Lawyers Guild, has been working with the protesters and said it would have taken weeks to get the hundreds of people involved to discuss and agree on the incentives.
Instead, the Occupy representatives walked out of the negotiations, prompting the mayor’s announcement Friday.
“From the start, we’ve said that a long-term encampment is not sustainable in City Hall park,” Villaraigosa said. “This is true for reason’s of public health, this is true for reason’s of public safety and for the security of the encampment itself. It’s time to close the park and repair the grounds so we can restore public access to the park.”
Beck echoed the mayor’s sentiments, praising the protesters for abiding the laws and being respectful, but said their encampment was breaking city laws.
“They’ve made this 56th day of occupation something that the city has been able to deal with — in a way,” said Beck, adding, “But that way is now over. After 56 days of not enforcing three city laws that prohibit the use of that park the time is now.”
Beck said the encampment must move in order to rehabilitate the park and to maintain public safety and health standards.
“That does not mean that Occupy’s message must end,” Beck said. “The mayor has made the west steps of City Hall available, it will continue to be available, and I think it’s time for Occupy to grow its message in a different medium.”
Lafferty called the breakdown in negotiations disappointing, saying the two sides could have come to a “remarkably unique and beneficial resolution of this occupation.”
“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.
According to Lafferty, the Lawyers Guild will use the next few days to prepare a legal defense for protesters, including 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 city officials. “We will not react in violence if evacuation occurs.”