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Occupy L.A.: Children in camp sparked eviction order, mayor says

Occupy LA: Click for more photos of the demonstrations

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said he decided it was time to evict Occupy L.A. protesters from the City Hall lawn after learning that there were children staying there.

Given the smattering of assaults and other incidents reported at the camp, “the chaos out there could produce something awful,” he said in an interview with The Times.

The mayor, a former union organizer and president of the Los Angeles chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said he and LAPD Chief Charlie Beck jointly made the decision to allow overnight camping on the lawn in hopes of charting a “different path” with protesters. That was, he said, in part because he respects many of their views.

Occupy L.A.: Photos | 360° photos | Video | Webcam

Many at the tent city--which grew to include its own library, multitude of committees and even a schedule of yoga classes--were drawn by outrage at economic policies that they say favor the rich. But many also pledge allegiance to a variety of other causes, including legalizing marijuana and ending the Federal Reserve.

As the protest wore on, Villaraigosa said it became increasingly clear that the city would not be able to negotiate an end to the demonstration with protesters because “the process for them to reach an agreement made it impossible.” At Occupy L.A., decisions are made by 100% consensus at a nightly General Assembly meeting. When it was revealed last week that several from their ranks had been meeting with police and an official from the mayor’s office in private talks, outrage spread through the camp

There were other concerns as well, including public health risks and the extensive damage to the City Hall lawn, which Villaraigosa estimates will cost “in the hundreds of thousands of dollars” to repair.

On Friday, Villaraigosa and Beck announced that the city would be closing the park at 12:01 a.m. Monday and enforcing the closure at some point after that. In the three days after the announcement, about 50% of the tents have been taken down, and many of the women and children that had been sleeping at the camp were gone, Villaraigosa said.

FULL COVERAGE: Occupy protests

Protesters were incensed with news of the park closure, which they said went against a City Council resolution in support of the protest. On Tuesday, about a dozen protesters caused a stir in a City Council meeting when they stood up and read a list of demands. Among them was a call for a moratorium on both home foreclosures and cutbacks for city workers.

The group, who read their demands, while most of the lawmakers went about business as usual, also asked the City Council and the mayor to address protesters at a General Assembly meeting.

RELATED:

Lopez: Put Occupy L.A. on the road

Live webcam: The scene at Occupy L.A.

Panoramic photos of the Occupy L.A. encampment

-- Kate Linthicum

Photo: Los Angeles police officers count tents Monday at the Occupy L.A. site at City Hall.

Credit: Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times

 
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L.A. Now is the Los Angeles Times’ breaking news section for Southern California. It is produced by more than 80 reporters and editors in The Times’ Metro section, reporting from the paper’s downtown Los Angeles headquarters as well as bureaus in Costa Mesa, Long Beach, San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, Riverside, Ventura and West Los Angeles.
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