Occupy LA may be asked to move

Protesters remain camped on City Hall's lawn but may soon be moved to another location.
Protesters remain camped on City Hall's lawn but may soon be moved to another location.
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

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After saying last week that Occupy L.A. protesters could remain at their City Hall encampment "for now," Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa instructed his staff to find a place for the protesters to relocate and come up with a plan for limiting the protest's time on City Hall's lawn.

At first, police shooed people off the broad lawn surrounding City Hall between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., but then gave up after a few days. Villaraigosa suggested the protesters could be moved to city property near Temple and Main streets.

He has said he won't put up with the demonstration indefinitely; protesters wont be able to stay on the lawn forever.

L.A. City Attorney Carmen Trutanich says an existing law requires people to clear out of the city’s public parks by 10:30 at night.

“If you’re a protester and you’re protesting the fact that Wall Street is breaking the law by doing what they’re doing and you in turn are breaking the law by doing what you’re doing, you’re in the same exact boat.”

Trutanich told KPCC’s Larry Mantle that he’s advised the city council to enforce the night curfew. Council members are considering whether they should move the protesters to another location.

Councilman Dennis Zine offered an explanation for the city's change of heart.

“Not much has changed except the time they’ve been there, and at a certain point your welcome is worn out,” Zine said on the Madeleine Brand Show Thursday. “We now have homeless people who are joining the group, people who are coming up off of skid row, who don’t have anything to do.”

Lance Robertson, a 29-year-old at the Downtown camp, said he agrees the protesters can't stay on the City Hall lawn forever. But if politicians force the demonstrators to leave, the movement will continue regardless.

"...it shows me that these people are massively out of touch without the broader social undercurrents that are happening right now," said Robertson.

But Zine said there are no local solutions to the wider problem, and system wide changes may be difficult to achieve.

“These folks basically want to take the 1 percent of the population, the wealthy folks, and how they became wealthy —through inheritance, through hard work, or whatever the case may be — and turn it into a socialist environment," Zine said on the Madeleine Brand Show "We’re a capitalist society and I don’t’ see us changing a capitalist society.”

The Occupy movement started Sept. 17 in New York City and has since spread around the nation. In Oakland, demonstrators allegedly threw things at police, who fired tear gas and riot-control rounds into the crowds yesterday.

Protesters in L.A. have expressed solidarity with the Oakland demonstrators, but the LAPD seem to have a very different approach to the Occupy movement here. Police officers have been speaking with L.A. protesters on a daily basis, and are taking cues from the city's politicians when determining how long the protesters will be able to stay.

Mayoral spokesman Peter Sanders said police would not make anyone move off City Hall's lawn overnight. Since people started camping at City Hall on Oct. 1, the number of tents set up overnight has ranged from about 40 to 493, by the most recent count.

On Wednesday evening, LAPD Public Information Director Andrew Smith was out wandering and talking to the protesters, as he says he does nearly every night.

"For right now, nothing has changed in our posture towards the crowd here," he said. "We've had great cooperation. We've had meetings with [protesters]. We meet with them just about every day. Everything's working out great. We've had a very peaceful, nonviolent expression of people's First Amendment rights here, which has been fantastic for us."

Villaraigosa has said he was concerned about the cost to taxpayers. He said the city was spending about $2,700 per day, mostly for General Services Department police officers to watch demonstrators. People also have been messing up the lawn and inadvertently breaking sprinkler heads, he said.

Damage to the lawn could be as much as $400,000, according to the Department of Parks and Recreation.

But the Occupy protesters are largely self-sustained. With over 500 tents set up on the lawn, the group has created a makeshift city that includes a library, first-aid station and a media tent where they can even live stream what's going on at their camp.

On Friday, there are even plans to hold a marriage ceremony at the Occupy camp.

The movement's spokesmen released a response to the concerns Wednesday night.