Get Off the Lawn: Mayor Announces Occupy LA Must Clear Out By Monday [UPDATED]
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa spoke at a press conference this afternoon to announce that a deadline has been set for the Occupy LA encampment to clear off the lawn of City Hall. After lauding the movement and its origins, Villaraigosa stressed that the city has been tolerant of the encampment, however the belief has been since the occupation began on October 1, that a long term encampment is not sustainable.
Citing brewing concerns over public health, public safety, and the well-being of the protesters themselves, Villaraigosa declared that the Occupy LA camp at City Hall Park is "now at a crossroads," and it's time for them to move. Occupy LA has until Monday November 28 at 12:01 a.m. to clear out.
Following Villaraigosa's measured and not surprising initial remarks, an unidentified representative from Occupy LA interjected with "mic check" and declared aloud that Occupy LA rejects the proposal they leave on Monday, and referred to the longer document of rejection posted by OLA online yesterday.
Villaraigosa resumed explaining the exit strategy, nothing that the city hopes that because this has been a successful peaceful, non-violent protest, that it remain so during the closure of the encampment. The mayor says Occupy LA has been "peaceful because we have decided to do things differently."
The process for the ending of the camp was mapped out as follows:
1. Officers with the General Services Police Department will walk through encampment handing out bilingual flyers announcing the closure of the camp
2. Social workers will walk through to talk about services available to those in need
3. 50 shelter beds will be made available for the homeless from camp
4. The City will make nearby parking available to make it easier for participants to clear out their belongings
5. The City wants to honor the spirit of the movement by keeping the Spring Street steps of City Hall open duringthe rehabilitation of the park so the participants of OLA and others can gather.
LAPD Chief Charlie Beck took a turn at the podium, who stated that it's time for Occupy LA to "grow its message in a different medium." Beck was also subject to interjection from at least one member of Occupy LA who spoke about a multitude of issues the Occupy movement is seeking to stand up against.
Beck said that the camp was breaking three laws by remaining in the park after park hours, and that the deadline set by the mayor was the signal that the LAPD would begin to enforce the laws. He also noted that if there were individuals with a reasonable need for a bit more time, the LAPD would grant them that time.
Villraigosa said they were "prepared to make arrests," however arrests are not the city's intention.
UPDATE 5:30 PM: Villaraigosa has published his letter to the Occupy LA City Hall campers on Facebook:
November 25, 2011
To Occupy Los Angeles:
This summer our national political conversation was consumed by debt ceilings and deficit reduction. Our national leaders were single-mindedly focused on cutting spending and cutting services. Issues of social justice and economic equality sat neglected and ignored on the political sidelines.
You have changed that. In seven short weeks, you have awakened the country’s conscience. You have given voice to those who have not been heard: to the middle class families who face piles of past due notices and wonder how they will get by; to the students who have done the work, made the grades and have graduated into a job market woefully short on prospects and possibility; to the homeowners who, through no fault of their own, have fallen on hard times and have lost their homes and lifesavings; and to all of the people who face the bitter prospect of an American Dream that grows more and more elusive every day.
The Occupy movement is now at a crossroads. The movement faces the question of how it can build on its initial success. It is a question of whether energy will be consumed to defend a particular patch of earth or whether that energy will be channeled to spreading the message of economic equality and signing more people up for the push to restore the balance to American society.
The encampment in City Hall Park is not sustainable. This is especially true from the standpoint of public health and public safety. Accordingly, we must close, repair and re-open the park to public access. For this reason, we will close the park on Monday, November 28th at 12:01 am. The park closure will include a set of measures that will assist Occupy LA participants to move their personal belongings and property from the park. We will also offer social and health services for those in need.
I am very proud of the fact that since the start of the occupation of City Hall Park, we have done things differently in Los Angeles. We have not stared each other down from opposite sides of barricades and barbed wire. We have communicated. We have listened. We have negotiated. It has allowed us to solve problems peacefully and to avoid the scenes of violence and brutality that have strained the civic fabric of other cities.
It is my hope that we can conclude this first chapter of Occupy LA in a similar spirit. I admire your courage and character. You have opened the eyes of your fellow citizens to the economic hardship in their midst. I am encouraged by your passionate commitment to social justice and look forward to the continued progress of your efforts.
Very Truly Yours,
Antonio R. Villaraigosa