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Occupy L.A.: City looks weak letting protesters stay, critics say

November 29, 2011 |  7:42 am

Counting tents

As the effort to evict Occupy L.A. campers drags on, some critics say the standoff is hurting the city's credibility.

The Los Angeles Police Department had set early Monday morning as the eviction deadline. But officials have not yet moved in to forcibly remove the tents and campers.

Stuart Waldman, president of the Valley Industry and Commerce Assn., said L.A. leaders lost credibility by failing to enforce an announced 12:01 a.m. Monday closure of the City Hall park.

"By not sticking to the 12:01 deadline, they're essentially saying, 'You need to leave by this time, but it's OK if you don't,'" he said. "There need to be consequences."

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Waldman said L.A.'s leaders would have been better off adopting the strategy used by Mayor Michael Bloomberg in New York, where scores of protesters swiftly were arrested and their belongings confiscated in a surprise early-morning raid.

Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said he isn't worried that the LAPD's approach will make the task of eventually clearing the park more difficult.

"This is the Los Angeles Police Department," he said. "No one is more capable of laying down the law than we are. No one should have any illusions that this will be a difficult crowd management for us. No one should have any illusions that this is a sign of weakness, inability or lack of will from the Police Department."

But the city's patience has opened the door to legal challenges, including a lawsuit filed by protesters Monday to bar police from dismantling the camp.

The suit in U.S. District Court, Los Angeles, alleges that the City Council exempted the protesters from an ordinance banning overnight camping at public parks, and that Villaraigosa and Beck overstepped their authority in ordering an end to the occupation. Chief Deputy City Atty. William Carter said the city is prepared to defend itself.

Jim Lafferty, director of the Los Angeles chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, who has been advising the Occupy protesters, said he expected a court review of the demonstrators' complaint within "the next day or two."

The U.S. District Court judge assigned to the case, Percy Anderson, could grant or reject the protesters' request or ask for additional arguments.

Despite Lafferty's expectations, it was unclear when the judge would take up the case.


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Photo: Los Angeles police officers count tents Monday at the Occupy L.A. site at City Hall. Credit: Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times / Nov. 28, 2011