Occupy LA's 12:01 Eviction Looms, Participants Plan to Stay, LAPD's Plans Unknown
The daily General Assembly (GA) meeting of the Occupy LA encampment got underway just after 7:30 Sunday night, but it wasn't the usual scene, as a larger than ever crowd gathered at City Hall to prepare for the planned closure of the park at 12:01 a.m. Monday. As things got underway, the crowd was estimated to be about 1,000 strong. As the GA moved towards its fourth hour, some estimates put the crowd at City Hall at closer to 2,000, and protesters are beginning to mill in the street.
At the start of the GA, well-known Vietnam veteran and activist Ron Kovic spoke to the crowd, offering his solidarity. As part of the ritual of process, the tenets of Occupy LA's non-violent stance were repeated, with firm reminders that the movement rejects violence and that participants should promote and maintain non-violent conduct.
There was no ignoring the elephant in the room--or at the camp: Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa had announced the park was closing just after midnight, and the Los Angeles Police Department may enforce that closure and arrest anyone defying the order to clear out.
But would the police come into the park at 12:01 a.m. and "raid" the encampment? An LAPD captain gave an interview earlier in the day suggesting the LAPD would hold back until daylight, however that information was refuted shortly after by LAPD media rep Ofc Cleon Joseph. Based on live feeds from the Occupy LA site, however, many only knew about the earlier interview, and believed the police would stand back during the night.
Arrests, however, seem likely. "If somebody wants to be arrested as part of their protest, we can certainly provide them with that opportunity" LAPD Cmdr Andy Smith said during a live on-air interview on KTLA after 8 p.m.
Villaraigosa did little to acknowledge the Occupy LA situation Sunday, save to post a lightly re-worded version of his letter published on Friday to the participants. His updated missive noted: "As Chief Beck has made clear, though the park will officially close tonight at 12:01 a.m., the department will allow campers ample time to remove their belongings peacefully and without disruption."
Members of Occupy LA addressing the GA discussed the reality of getting arrested. During the day resistance training had been offered, and tips for how to properly link arms, and what to do if you were planning to be arrested--such as write the number to the National Lawyer's Guild (NLG) on your arm, give a buddy at the camp your emergency contact info, and ditch all personal items on you except your ID--were offered by various speakers during the initial portion of the meeting.
With helicopters swirling above, Jim Lafferty of the NLG addressed the crowd of about 1,000 people, saying that LAPD Chief Charlie Beck had reassured him the officers who might come to the site would not be violent. Lafferty said Beck had told him to "please tell these good folks we are not the NY police department, we are not the Oakland police department, we will not come in the stealth of night."
As the 11 p.m. hour began, speakers continued to take turns making brief, rallying announcements. Rumors of LAPD gathering at Elysian Park surfaced, and more people began to show up in the streets in front of City Hall, protesting, getting in the way of vehicles. "This is precisely what [an LAPD Captain] had told me earlier would lead to arrests," said an Occupy LA media rep, who was broadcasting live via Ustream at OccupyFreedomLA. Minutes later, the LAPD begin to clear the streets. The 12:01 a.m. deadline is less than an hour away.