Authorities have broken up an anti-Wall Street encampment in the Inland Empire. More than half a dozen members of Occupy Coachella Valley were taken into custody early Tuesday morning after defying orders to leave a public park in Palm Desert. At Occupy L.A., protesters prepare for a potential police raid.
Officers cleared about 20 demonstrators from Palm Desert's Civic Center Park just after midnight. Eight people were arrested for unlawful assembly, being in a public park after hours and unlawful camping.
The city of Palm Desert had granted a temporary camping permit to the demonstrators. It declined to renew it after it became clear the group planned to stay indefinitely.
A video of the early morning arrests were posted on YouTube by one the protestors.
Demonstrators told the Desert Sun newspaper that officers gave no verbal warning before making the arrests. But half the protesters left when officers arrived.
Police say officers visited the park over the weekend to ask demonstrators to leave, or move their protest. Some protestors complied, but then returned.
Demonstrators say they plan to resume their occupation of Civic Center Park.
Occupy L.A. prepares for potential police raid
Some Occupy L.A. protesters encamped outside City Hall are preparing for a police raid, even though LAPD officials say they don’t plan to conduct one.
“It feels like there’s a case being built against the Occupy protest," Don Duncan said. "Dead grass at City Hall, the sanitary conditions around the trash and the restrooms. It feels like a lot of issues are being brought up in the media.”
Duncan is no stranger to police tactics. He is with Americans for Safe Access, a medical marijuana group that's fought against police raids on pot shops. Duncan provided a civil disobedience seminar to a small group of Occupy L.A. protesters.
Duncan said people should decide ahead of time if they're willing to be arrested, and urged them to be nonviolent if the police approach. He also said people should not already be in trouble with the law.
“If you have an outstanding warrant (for your arrest), you’re probably not a good candidate for civil disobedience," Duncan told the group sitting outside City Hall. "You’re going to get arrested for your outstanding warrant."
Some people worried about agent provocateurs sparking police violence. Others worried the police would show up in the middle of the night. One man said he had more faith in the LAPD than the Oakland Police, who protesters claim used excessive force.
Friday, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck walked through the hundreds of tents nearly surrounding City Hall.
“This group has been peaceful and respectful," Beck said as he joked with one protester who'd lost one of his flip flops. "We'll slow down for you."
Beck said there's no immediate plan to remove the protesters, but echoed Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and others who've said they can't stay indefinitely.
“We want to continue a program that continues freedom of speech but also allows the city to continue its business," Beck said, "and when I say business, I mean the use of property and public space and all of that.”
As the chief spoke, several reporters smelled marijuana in the air. Beck professed he smelled nothing, adding that marijuana use was not his biggest concern at Occupy L.A.
"Marijuana use doesn’t necessarily disturb me. The behavior of the group disturbs me. And the behavior of the group has been good," Beck said. "I’ve been here many, many times. Nobody is smoking marijuana in front of me. I don’t know if it's medicinal or illegal. I have no idea. But I certainly have not seen alcohol containers. I have not seen people publicly intoxicated or high.”
Its unclear how many of the hundreds of protesters would obey a police order to leave. Duncan said people are split on the issue.
“I’m hearing about 50/50 right now of people saying they are going to stick around no matter what and people saying they are going to leave when the police department orders them to go," he said.
City and LAPD officials say they continue to negotiate with Occupy L.A. about finding another venue.