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Occupy L.A.: Judge could decide on restraining order soon

November 28, 2011 | 12:51 pm

Occupy L.A. sleep

Occupy L.A. seeks court order to stop eviction A federal judge reviewing Occupy L.A. protesters' complaint against the city of Los Angeles could immediately grant a temporary restraining order against expelling the campers or ask for further argument.

James Lafferty, Los Angeles chapter director of the National Lawyers Guild, said he expected a federal judge to review the complaint within the next few days. The Guild is one of the groups helping to advise the protesters.

Monday morning, Occupy L.A. protesters and civil rights lawyers petitioned a federal court Monday to block police from disbanding the nearly 2-month-old encampment around City Hall.

PHOTOS: Occupy L.A.

In a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, the anti-Wall Street protesters accused Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and LAPD Chief Charlie Beck of exceeding their authority in ordering an end to overnight camping at the downtown landmark because the City Council had exempted the protesters from an ordinance banning overnight stays.

The complaint accuses the mayor and police chief of engaging in "arbitrary and capricious action" in violation of the 1st and 14th Amendment rights by first approving the Occupy L.A. presence, then unilaterally revoking it without the City Council's involvement.

"The mayor does not have the power to supersede the City Council," Lafferty told a news conference on the steps of City Hall.

FULL COVERAGE: Occupy protests

Mario Brito, an Occupy L.A. organizer and one of five named plaintiffs in the complaint, said the protesters had faithfully responded to all complaints and requests of the city during the 56 days they have occupied City Hall Park in a round-the-clock demonstration demanding a more equitable economic system.

"Whenever they had issues -- people sleeping on grates and other concerns -- we would almost immediately respond to all of their issues," Brito said. "Now for the mayor to say 'you have to go' -- this should have been addressed to us. We have demonstrated our willingness to meet all of their concerns."

Chief Deputy City Atty. William Carter said the city attorney's office was reviewing the complaint and was ready to respond in court, if asked. He said the city planned to oppose the request for a restraining order on three grounds: a city ordinance bans overnight camping in city parks, the occupation has inflicted serious damage to the City Hall Park grounds since it began Oct. 1, and the protesters failed to give city authorities due notice of their pursuit of a restraining order.

The protesters' complaint 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 series who camped out on Westwood Village sidewalks for several days to get in to a midnight showing of the first 'Twilight' movie.

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 content with the current standoff, city officials stressed that the encampment cannot continue.

ALSO:

Protesters divided over how to handle eviction

Occupy L.A. protesters: 'We won — at least for another day'

FULL COVERAGE: Occupy protests in California and around the nation

-- Carol J. Williams, Kate Linthicum and Abby Sewell

Photo: Occupy L.A. supporters congregate around Los Angeles City Hall on Monday morning after a pre-dawn faceoff with LAPD officers. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times

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