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Lesson of Occupy LA: Protests are expensive

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The City of Los Angeles continues to wrestle with the financial implications of its decision to allow Occupy L.A. protesters to camp out on the City Hall lawn for two months last fall.

Today it was the City Council Budget and Finance Committee's turn to examine the $4.7 million it cost to accommodate and then evict the protesters. The cost estimate was recently revealed in a a report from the City Administrative Officer.

“It’s expensive to have a protest,” the CAO’s Tyler Munhall told members of the Budget and Finance Committee.

Occupy L.A. remained on the lawn around City Hall until the LAPD cleared out the encampment last November. Insurance and donations covered about $400,000 of the tab. Councilman Mitch Englander urged his colleagues to remember the report when similar costly situations come up.

“When we’re in dire financial shape right now and cutting programs and slashing services and unable to maintain pools and streets and sidewalks and trees, we’ve got to look at these dollars. I mean, $5 million is a lot of money,” Englander said.

The president of the Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council testified that she believes the true cost may be more than $4.7 million, especially in light of Occupy L.A.’s recent demonstrations and chalking near Pershing Square. 

“The residents of the Historic Core feel that they’ve been let down by the government of this city,” said Patti Berman.

“We all understand that there are First Amendment rights to be dealt with but this was not a situation of First Amendment rights. This was a situation of being afraid to tell these people that you are vandals, not people with a protest.” 

Among the city’s costs associated with Occupy L.A.:

  • LAPD: $2.5 million
  • Recreation and Parks: $1 million
  • General Services officers: $571,000
  • City Attorney $249,000
  • LAFD: $72,000
  • Bureau of Sanitation: $54,000
  • Repair of public monuments: $50,000
  • Bureau of Street Services: $29,000
  • Graffiti cleanup: $2,700

The report does not include what it cost the Police Department to respond to Occupy L.A. protests at the July and August Art Walks in downtown. A spokesman for the police department said an estimate on those costs was not yet available.

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