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City boxes off fountain at Occupy L.A. -- and artists start painting

Fence

Artists camped at Occupy L.A. -– and there are many -– now have a new canvas: a large wooden plywood barrier built to protect a historic fountain outside City Hall.

Shortly after the plywood went up Tuesday morning, protesters took to it with spray paint, drawing pictures and scrawling slogans like, “Natives Unite,” and “No Borders.”
 
The white marble fountain was built in 1933 and restored in 2006. It is dedicated to Frank Putnam Flint, a U.S. senator who helped spur construction of the Los Angeles Aqueduct, which brought water from the Owens Valley to the Los Angeles region.

PHOTOS: Occupy protests

Since protesters first set up tents outside City Hall last month, the fountain has served as a kind of symbolic center of camp. It's a common meeting place, and the nightly general assembly meetings are held at its base.

During one recent meeting, two demonstrators climbed to the top of the fountain and sat there, meditating. Later on, protesters hung a screen on the fountain and projected a documentary movie.

Peter Sanders, a spokesman for Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, said city crews installed the plywood walls Tuesday to protect the fountain –- which had been written on with chalk graffiti  --  and the protesters themselves. A separate memorial for firefighters outside City Hall was also sealed off with plywood walls, Sanders said.

Art has played a prominent role in the Occupy encampment. Cameras are ubiquitous and there’s a print-making committee that churns out T-shirts and posters. On many days, it's common to see paintings drying in the afternoon sun.  

The city is OK with the graffiti, so long as it stays on the fence, Sanders said.

“They’re allowed to do that," he said.

RELATED:

Officials embrace of Occupy LA loosens

Protests gain momentum with union support

FULL COVERAGE: Occupy protests around the nation

-- Kate Linthicum at Los Angeles City Hall

Photo: An Occupy L.A. protester paints a mural on a large wooden enclosure erected by the city to protect the Frank Putnam Flint fountain outside City Hall. Credit: Arkasha Stevenson / Los Angeles Times

 
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