LA offers incentives to Occupy protesters to leave City Hall

A demonstrator sits outside a tent at the Occupy LA encampment in front of Los Angeles City Hall October 25, 2011. Demonstrators at the encampment are protesting bank bailouts, foreclosures and high unemployment.
A demonstrator sits outside a tent at the Occupy LA encampment in front of Los Angeles City Hall October 25, 2011. Demonstrators at the encampment are protesting bank bailouts, foreclosures and high unemployment.
Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

Los Angeles city officials are offering Occupy L.A. protesters incentives, including downtown office space and two empty lots for a community garden, if they agree to stop camping outside City Hall.

According to lawyer Jim Lafferty, who's been working on behalf of Occupy L.A., officials are offering protesters a $1-a-year lease on 10,000 square feet of office space near City Hall, land for protesters who want to farm and housing for homeless members of the camp, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Payment of the utilities for the vacant office building has yet to be decided.

The mayor's office refused comment on the proposal, but said "We are in negotiations with organizers of Occupy L.A.," according to the L.A. Times.

Occupy LA activist PJ Davenport told KPCC’s Larry Mantle that "ongoing conversation" is more apt to describe the interactions between the city and Occupy’s liaisons committee, a self-appointed team that Davenport said any demonstrator could join. She said negotiations occur at the movement’s general assembly, which meets once each evening. A high majority is needed to pass a vote.

"The general assembly is the sole decision making body for Occupy L.A., so what they were presented with last night from the city liaison team was simply a draft proposal by the city," she said Tuesday. "This is not a negotiated proposal, this is the city’s idea about what it is we might want based on their observations of us since we’ve been there for the last 50 days."

Davenport said that mention of impending arrests came up multiple times at Monday night's meeting, and she feels the Occupy movement will be cleared out soon.

"What I did hear is that we've outworn our welcome," she said. "[The incentive] is like an opportunity to accept a gift and move along, because shop will be closing down shortly on City Hall lawn."

To date, no other city has made these kinds of accommodations. L.A. officials have said they want to avoid a violent end to the demonstration and don't plan on a police raid like those in New York, Oakland and elsewhere. It remains unclear whether protesters will agree to a deal and leave their camp. KPCC's Frank Stoltze told Mantle that many held resentments against liaisons discussing the incentive, and a majority wanted to stay on the City Hall lawn.

But The Associated Press reports that some are saying occupiers should remain in their tents as a way to keep the pressure on the government to change economic policies.

"We're holding City Hall hostage," said protester John Smith. "We can't sell out."

Others see it as a good deal and a chance to push the movement forward after it made its initial statement and raised public awareness.

"Now we can get really organized and lose the riff-raff who are just here for the handouts," said Matt Wegner, who's been camping out for 32 days.

Some activists said they should push the city for even more. "We can compromise but with a bigger space that meets our needs," said Juan Alcala, as he swept the sidewalk.

Lafferty said he told city officials that members of the camp may not agree to the proposal, the L.A. Times reports.

Davenport said that protesters have extended a hand to the city, inviting officials to join Tuesday's 7:30 p.m. general assembly to negotiate the incentive.

In Oakland, Occupy protesters have come up with another alternative to a city hall camp; they've set up tents on the property of what they say is a foreclosed home.

About 10 tents were standing on the lot in the city's West Oakland neighborhood Tuesday morning. Protesters say they have the permission of the home's former occupant to use the property.

The new camp went up fewer than 24 hours after Oakland police cleared about 100 campers from a long-standing camp at Snow Park early Monday. No arrests were reported.

Police evicted protesters from the main Occupy Oakland encampment outside city hall last week.

Demonstrators at the new site say camping on foreclosed properties calls attention to economic hardship they blame on big banks.

The Occupy encampment in Santa Rosa is also being cleared out from around city hall. Police have cleared more than half the tents of the camp that some protesters say had morphed into a homeless camp.

KTVU-TV reports that officers on Tuesday morning evicted campers from 26 tents that did not have permits. Another 18 tents granted permits by the city in an effort to maintain order at the weeks-old camp were allowed to stay.

Santa Rosa police Lt. Craig Schwartz said protesters complied peacefully with police orders to leave and no arrests were made.

The Press Democrat of Santa Rosa reports the camp once numbered up to 100 tents, but many of the original Occupy Santa Rosa demonstrators abandoned the site as drug and alcohol abuse spread among the camp's homeless residents.

The Associated Press contributed to this story