Occupy L.A. protesters to seek court order to block eviction
Protesters plan to file for a federal injunction that would prevent police from dismantling the Occupy L.A. encampment around City Hall.
The complaint, which was to be filed at 10 a.m. Monday in federal court, names the city of Los Angeles, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and LAPD Chief Charlie Beck, alleging that the protesters' civil rights were violated. The three protesters who planned to file the suit would be seeking a court order to prevent the city from evicting the camp from the City Hall lawn.
The complaint accuses the city of engaging in "arbitrary and capricious action in violation of the 1st and 14th Amendments by first approving the Occupy presence for 56 days before suddenly revoking permission through the unilateral action of defendants."
Chief Deputy City Atty. William Carter said the city attorney's office was reviewing the complaint and was ready to respond or appear if necessary.
Carter said the city was prepared to file three declarations in opposition to a restraining order. One is from a Los Angeles Police Department officer relating to enforcement of the city ordinance that bans people from being in parks overnight.
The protesters' complaint points out that the City Council passed a resolution of support for the protesters and states that an aide to Villaraigosa told two of the plaintiffs, protester Mario Brito and Jim Lafferty of the National Lawyers Guild, that the municipal code section prohibiting overnight camping in city parks would not be enforced.
The complaint also pointed out that the city has made other exceptions to the anti-camping provision, including for people waiting at Exposition Park to be eligible for free medical services and for an estimated 500 fans of the "Twilight" vampire movies who "camped out on the sidewalks of Westwood Village for several days to be first in line for the midnight showing of the first 'Twilight' sequel."
Earlier this month, protesters did give notice that they would seek an emergency restraining order on Nov. 18. But the issue was put on hold when protesters failed to show up in court to file for the request.
On that day, civil rights lawyer Carol Sobel, a legal advisor for Occupy protests across the country, appeared in court and said she planned to argue that the protesters seeking the injunction did not represent Occupy L.A. Sobel is listed as the attorney on the new complaint.
Protesters had expected to be forcefully evicted after the mayor announced that the park would be closed at 12:01 a.m. Monday.
Instead, after a night of largely peaceful protests, police arrested four people who refused to clear the streets. Overnight, about 1,000 protesters blocked the intersection of 1st and Main streets until about 5 a.m., when police issued an order to disperse.
Most returned to the encampment at City Hall Park, but a few were arrested.
Villaraigosa and Beck said that the 12:01 a.m. deadline marked the time when the encampment became illegal, not when eviction would occur.
Although protesters said they were happy with the outcome, officials stressed that the encampment cannot continue.
"We will enforce the park closure," Villaraigosa said in an interview with KTLA-TV. "We thought talking through this was the best way to proceed and we've done that. But it's become crystal clear … that it wasn't sustainable to be there indefinitely."
Villaraigosa praised the protesters for shining a light on problems facing the middle class and forcing people to listen.
"My hope is that we will be able to conclude this chapter peacefully," he said.
-- Abby Sewell and Kate Linthicum
Photo: A sign reminds people that a raid many thought was eminent never materialized on Monday morning and the area around City Hall remained occupied. Credit: Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times