LOS ANGELES (CBS) — LAPD officers raided the Occupy L.A. encampment shortly after midnight Wednesday. The eviction came about two months after demonstrators first set up camp on the City Hall lawn.READ MORE: Lakers Handle Celtics 117-102, Split Rivalry For Season
People who wanted to leave the Occupy LA encampment were being escorted out by police, who said they were giving protesters every opportunity to get out peacefully.
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa released the following statement shortly after police moved into the camp:
“At approximately 12:30 a.m., the LAPD began enforcing the closure of City Hall Park after giving those in the park a final opportunity to leave without facing arrest.
“We have taken a measured approach to enforcing the park closure because we have wanted to give people every opportunity to leave peacefully. I ask that anyone who remains in the park to please leave voluntarily.
“Our approach also recognized the human need in the encampment. Since the park closure was announced on Friday, outreach workers with the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority have walked through the park, assessing needs and connecting interested individuals in need with an alternative place to spend the night.
“During the park closure, a First Amendment area will remain open on the Spring Street City Hall steps.
“Once the park is cleared, it will be repaired and returned to all Angelenos to exercise their First Amendment rights.”READ MORE: Retired Judge To Investigate Claims Riverside County Failed To Protect Turpin Children After They Were Freed
The first indication of the raid came when LAPD announced that they were on a citywide tactical alert Tuesday night. Groups of officers were seen boarding buses at Dodger Stadium and headed to Downtown L.A. to move the demonstrators out.
Hundreds of protesters congregated near First and Main streets, bracing for the LAPD’s arrival. Lines of people were linked arm in arm and some were even wearing gas masks in case the police used tear gas.
“I don’t plan on getting arrested but I don’t plan on leaving,” said one protester.
Several “Occupiers” said they had come from San Diego and had participated in the Occupy protest there. They were giving instructions Tuesday night to other protesters who did want to get arrested — to make a statement — on how to non-violently do so.
The city declared last week that residing in the encampment would be unlawful effective on Monday, but the police raid that would have resulted in the removal of the tents and their occupants never occurred.
The passed deadline made many wonder when the LAPD would enforce the mayor’s call to clear the park.
About 48 hours after the first deadline, a large number of police officers were seen gathering at Dodger Stadium to board buses. The LAPD also announced at approximately 9 p.m. that they were on tactical alert across the city because of unusual activity at City Hall.
Meanwhile, the crowd of protesters enlarged considerably at City Hall, as many were using social networks to call on the public to join their efforts to defy the city.
Protest organizers were vocal that Occupiers respond non-violently to police.MORE NEWS: Family Mourn Teenager Shot And Killed Near Boyle Heights Recreation Center