Occupy L.A.: LAPD makes arrests, but camp still standing
The Los Angeles Police Department arrested several people Monday morning as it worked to deal with a swelling crowd that came to protest the planned eviction of Occupy L.A. campers on the lawn of City Hall.
When the LAPD announced that it wanted the campers out by midnight Sunday, officials hoped many protesters would leave voluntarily. Instead, the deadline prompted hundreds of people to converge on the area.
An estimated 1,000 protesters blocked streets around City Hall, creating a standoff with authorities.
Shortly after 5 a.m., police issued an order to disperse to demonstrators gathered at the intersection of 1st and Main streets. Most people complied, but a few refused to leave.
At one point, some protesters started throwing objects at police. Several people were then arrested; one person was carried away by officers.
Police said that there are still no plans to begin evicting people from the park around City Hall, which was officially closed at midnight. They said their main intention was to clear the streets for morning commuters.
"It is not our intent to clear the park at this time," an officer said over a loudspeaker. "It is only our intent to clear the street. Thank you in advance for your cooperation."
"Right now we have no plans to go into the encampment," said LAPD Cmdr. Andy Smith.
L.A. officials have been agonizing for weeks over how to end the encampment. Authorities in Oakland and New York moved in and forcibly pushed out Occupy campers, but both of those actions were criticized as being heavy-handed.
LAPD Chief Charlie Beck had hoped Los Angeles could have a more peaceful result. The city had proposed that the protesters leave in exchange for office space and land to farm, but protesters vowed to stay.
The city's deadline appeared to embolden some protesters, as many people came out early Monday morning to support the cause.
Clutching a sign that read "This is My First Occupation," Jessica Macias sat on a curb of 1st Street near City Hall early Monday while a throng of protesters held hands behind her, attempting to forge a human wall around the building.
Macias, 24, said she had driven an hour from her home in San Bernardino County to spend several weekends at the City Hall encampment.
She said she was laid off from her job at a private university corporation in February, but witnessed the president of the company purchase a new Jaguar. Macias said she is living off her savings and is worried about making her rent.
She said her parents lost their home last year and had to move in with her brother. Her father, a 25-year post office employee, was forced into early retirement, she said.
Macias said she has applied for numerous jobs, including at Pizza Hut and Target, but remains unemployed. She said could relate to the Occupy movement and decided to join in the campaign against economic inequality.
"It's not fun to sleep on concrete," she said. "It's not luxurious."
-- Joel Rubin, Rick Rojas, Hailey Branson-Potts and Nicole Santa Cruz at City Hall
Photo: Police block a group of Occupy L.A. protesters who had swarmed onto the street Monday morning. Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times