Occupy L.A.: Police arrest protesters at Bank of America
Los Angeles police began arresting dozens of Occupy Los Angeles protesters who refused to leave Bank of America Plaza in in the financial district Thursday afternoon in the second major protest of the day.
Police ordered the protesters to disperse at 4:10 p.m., a request that was greeted with chants of "Shame on you."
The protesters began taking over the plaza about 1 p.m. after a march from City Hall. They set up tents on a grassy area and locked arms, where they faced down police. But the property owner informed the LAPD that it was closing the park, which is private property, and requested that anybody who remained be arrested for trespassing.
Not everybody was willing to be arrested. Vlad Popescu, a 31-year-old graduate student at San Francisco State, said, "I greatly admire their courage. I think if our country continues to go in the same direction it’s been going in the last 20 to 30 years, I may be one of them soon. What they are doing is very valuable. I'm chicken, frankly. I'm not ready to go to jail."
The arrests came after 23 other protesters were taken into custody Thursday morning after they erected tents in the middle of a downtown street.
The second march was organized by the Service Employees International Union and included janitors, security officers, airport workers and other service workers, along with protesters from Occupy L.A. After the march, many union members left, but said they supported Occupy L.A.'s continued efforts.
Mike Garcia, president of the SEIU United Services Workers West, issued a statement in support of the expanded protest.
"We call on Mayor Villaraigosa to support and protect their right to peacefully protest within our great city," he said.
"Across the country, workers, unemployed people, parents, students, veterans and people of all ages are speaking out to say that Wall Street banks wrecked our economy and they are responsible for fixing it.
” Occupy L.A. has taken that message to the doorstep of one of the nation’s biggest banks, Bank of America, with a new occupation in front of the Bank of America building in downtown Los Angeles. We stand in solidarity with them."
The mayor's office issued a statement saying that the plaza is private property and the city attorney's office was looking into the legal issues.
-- Matt Stevens and Richard Winton
Photo: Protesters at Bank of America Plaza. Credit: Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times