Thursday, December 1, 2011
Officials Prepared to Respond if Occupy LA Came on County Premises After Camp Dispersal, Emails Show
From Staff and Wire Service Reports
Los Angeles County officials were prepared to arrest Occupy LA protesters had they come onto county property following the dispersal of their City Hall encampent by the Los Angeles Police Department yesterday, internal emails show.
One email, circulated within the Sheriff’s Department and sent to the five county supervisors and County Counsel Andrea Ordin, said the Sheriff’s Department had brought up additional officers to patrol the Civic Center area and had tactical teams from various stations on call if additional resources were necessary to secure county property.
Sheriff’s deputies were also watching over the Music Center, parking lots, construction areas, Hall of Administration, Hall of Records, and other downtown plaza areas.
“The Sheriff has been advised by County Counsel to reference penal ccode 647(e),” the email obtained by the MetNews said, purportedly summarizing a conference among department officials. “California Penal Code section 647(e) prohibits lodging on public property without permission. You do not have the County’s permission to lodge on this property. Any attempt to do will subject you to arrest under Penal Code section 647(e).”
Ordin responded with an email informing the supervisors that attorneys from her office would “be available throughout the night” if necessary.
Those efforts became unnecessary after the 1,400 Los Angeles police officers deployed to the grounds were able to clear out the two-month-old camp of some 500 tents within five hours without major incident.
Police did, however, arrest nearly 300 protesters in the pre-dawn raid. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, at a press conference hours after the sweep concluded, said city leaders “took a measured approach” to the raid and “did not dismiss the protesters out of hand.”
“What we demonstrated in this town is that working together we can respect the rights of people to speak out against the government,” he claimed.
After days of warnings that the camp would be cleared this week, word of the impending raid had spread during evening.
By 10 p.m. Tuesday, the park was packed with about 400 people, including members of the Service International Employees Union and supporters from throughout the city who had heeded pleas issued via Twitter for people to come to the site.
The atmosphere was festive, although protesters prepared themselves for police with gas masks, phone numbers for lawyers, and trash can barricades at the park’s entrances.
Police waited to move in until after midnight and the crowd had thinned. Riot-clad officers who had quietly arrived in surrounding streets swarmed through the park. Some were inside City Hall and burst through doors that opened onto the park.
The site was secured within minutes and people were given 10 minutes to leave or face arrest on charges of failing to disperse an unlawful assembly, while a line of police officers forced the crowd of onlookers down the street until the street was clear.
A group of about 20 protesters had already decided to be arrested and linked arms in a circle around a tent in the park plaza. They said their arrests were statements of protest about economic injustice.
“It’s worth being arrested for,” said Sean Woodward, 28.
Scores of others later joined them and a handful scrambled up trees to evade capture. Police called in a high-tech cherry-picker vehicle dubbed the “Bat Cat” that lifted officers into the trees to haul out five protesters.
The final three protesters, who were holed up in an elaborate tree house built in a cluster of palm trees, were subdued after officers fired beanbags at them, police Cmdr. Andrew Smith said.
Smith described it as a minor use of force. No serious injuries were reported.
The vast majority of protesters did not resist arrest and were taken off to jail by the busload, with the park finally cleared shortly after 5 a.m.
City workers moved in immediately, installing concrete barriers around the park.
By dawn, trash, flattened tents, strewn clothing, bedding and the stench of urine were the legacy of the Occupy LA.
Under a tree lay a guitar, a bullhorn, CDs and a black bandanna.
The raid stood in stark contrast to evictions at similar camps around the country that sometimes involved pepper spray, tear gas and batons. The movement against economic disparity and perceived corporate greed began with Occupy Wall Street in Manhattan two months ago.
The Los Angeles officers staged for hours outside Dodger Stadium before the raid. They were warned that demonstrators might throw everything from concrete and gravel to human feces at them.
“Please put your face masks down and watch each other’s back,” a supervisor told them. “Now go to work.”
Copyright 2011, Metropolitan News Company