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Occupy L.A. eviction deadline could backfire, activists say

November 27, 2011 |  9:24 am

Some civil rights attorneys are questioning the decision by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck to set a deadline for removing Occupy L.A. protesters encamped on the City Hall grounds.

The mayor and chief announced that the deadline would be 12:01 a.m. Monday, though many protesters are vowing to stay.

While civil rights activists have praised the LAPD for showing restraint with protesters, they fear that setting a deadline could cause problems.

FULL COVERAGE: Occupy protests

The deadline “precipitated a crisis for no real emergency,” said veteran L.A. civil rights attorney Connie Rice.

During a visit to the Occupy Wall Street camp at Zuccotti Park in New York a few weeks ago, Rice said, she was struck by the tense relationship between police and protesters

She found the NYPD to be "hostile, bristling, intimidating, rude and purposely unhelpful, just like the LAPD used to be. People [there] were remarking why can't NYPD be more like LAPD," Rice said.

"I said, 'It took a lot of work,' " she said.

Police “have been restrained up until now but it's not over,” said civil rights attorney Carol Sobel. But the deadline “made people dig in their heels. There were discussions taking place. There was no reason not to let it play out further and see what the city could do.”

Beck said it's inevitable that at some point officials would ask the protesters to leave. He remained hopeful that the lawn could be cleared without violence.

"This is a police department that is very good with the application of force if we need to be. Nobody questions that," he added. "But I also want to be known as a department that can avoid the application of major force."

But he knows it could get tough. "I have no illusions that everybody is going to leave," Beck said. "We anticipate that we will have to make arrests .... We certainly will not be the first ones to apply force."

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-- Andrew Blankstein

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