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Public praises reopening of L.A. City Hall park

 A mix of downtown employees, passersby and Occupy protesters enjoyed the opening of the park surrounding City Hall on Thursday afternoon.

The first thing that Maura Cotter, 24, did when she arrived was practice a few yoga moves. As part of the Occupy movement, she was disappointed with the park's closing and believed it resulted in the city losing a "magical" place.

"This place has a lot of amazing memories," said Cotter, who had visited the Occupy encampment before they were moved out. "Just to be able to be on the inside on the grass, not from the outside looking in, it feels good."

PHOTOS: L.A. City Hall park comes back to life

PANORAMA: City Hall park reopens | Occupy L.A. encampment

Los Angeles city planner Craig Weber, 34, sat on the steps of City Hall eating his lunch and taking in the new drought-tolerant landscaping.

"We need spaces like this [in downtown]," said Weber, who was inspired by the city's new landscaping.

Although he enjoyed the park, Severin Martinez, 21, was disappointed with the new hours.

"Public spaces should always be open," Martinez said. "Maybe for safety reasons they can justify closure, but I don't think people should be penalized for passing through here after the official closure."

At a ceremony to reopen the park, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said he is committed to protecting protesters' free speech, and said there are two places in the park -- on the Spring Street and 1st Street steps of City Hall -- where activists will be allowed to demonstrate.

"We're dedicated to preserving our freedom to speak and protest and organize," he said, "but we're also dedicated to preserving this park as a space for the public."


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-- Melissa Leu

Video: Craig Weber, a city employee in downtown L.A., ate lunch Thursday to celebrate the reopening of the park near City Hall. Credit: Melissa Leu / Los Angeles Times

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