Cleanup begins after Occupy LA protesters removed from City Hall lawn

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Trash, flattened tents and the stench of urine remained after hundreds of Occupy Los Angeles protesters were arrested or chased out of their City Hall lawn camp.

Some Occupy protesters tried getting back into the camp to retrieve their possessions. One young lady in tears told KPCC's Shirley Jahad that her pet was in her tent. City services workers dragged full tents with whatever was inside from the site, dumping them into garbage trucks. Protester David Carson pointed inside the fenced off site and said that his wallet and laptop were in his tent, but police were preventing anyone from getting inside so he wasn't able to retrieve it.

"We made it quite clear in the announcement that they needed to take their property with them," LAPD Commander Smith told KPCC. He added that police picked up anything of value, but "much of the rest had human waste on it," and the LAPD decided they could not book and store items with human waste on them, so those were discarded.

The once-lush lawns are now patches of dirt strewn with tons of debris, including clothing, tents, bedding, shoes, trash and two months of human flotsam. Under a tree is a guitar, a bullhorn, CDs and a black bandanna. Plywood panels erected to protect statues were sprayed with graffiti.

L.A. City Councilman Dennis Zine told KTLA he was disgusted by what he saw following the Occupy encampment. "This is a disgrace what's happened to the public grounds." Zine said that it's going to be a big investment to clean up the City Hall lawn. "There was absolute decay to this area," Zine said. "You're not going to see any more campouts in Los Angeles parks."

A wooden tree house strung six feet in the air between palm trees was still in place with a sign offering "Free hugs."

Plywood panels erected to protect statues were sprayed with graffiti, including the words, "It smells like change." Early Wednesday, however, the area smelled like urine.

Occupy L.A. refugee Bobby Lopez, 42, of San Antonio left the encampment just before the police raid and said officers wouldn't let him return.

"They trashed all my stuff," he said. "My laptop, my radio, my clothing, just everything ... My girlfriend actually got arrested while she was asleep in the tent. They dragged her out."

After protesters were removed, officers in hazmat suits began dismantling the remaining tents and other structures. At around 3:30 a.m., street services trucks moved in to close the park for renovations.

Flatbed trucks filled with fencing and concrete barriers moved in following the raid to block off the park as a massive cleanup begins, with fencing going in around the perimeter of the lawn at dawn. Police officers lined the blocks around City Hall in casual stance wearing regular uniforms rather than riot gear. Across the street, a small group of protesters remained as the cleanup began.

A police commander says it will take weeks to rehabilitate the park, though city workers expect the park to be mostly cleaned by the end of the day. Workers planned to use skip loaders to scoop up the mess at the park.

L.A. Parks and Recreation General Manager John Kirk Mukri told KTLA that the park around City Hall will be closed indefinitely following Wednesday's early morning raid on Occupy L.A. Mukri said the department will make a “complete assessment” of the damage to the park from the encampment, adding that the irrigation system was likely compromised. That assessment will take a few months to complete, Mukri said. They also want to make sure the trees are healthy.

This story has been updated.

With contributions from The Associated Press and Mike Roe

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