On the scene as LAPD shuts down Occupy L.A. [VIDEO]
Early Monday morning, the Los Angeles Police Department officers evicted the Occupy L.A. protesters, who have been at Los Angeles City Hall since the beginning of October.
The police made an estimated 200 arrests, as reported in a story by Journal reporter Jonah Lowenfeld.
At approximately 12:15 a.m., police swarmed into the site, and demonstrators rushed around the encampment, trying to figure out where to go. Officers in riot gear formed two lines on a path that cuts into the southeast edge of the lawn at City Hall, and the officers faced protestors in both directions, ordering them to stay off the path.
Frederic Johnson, 35, wearing a hoodie and a beanie that covered his ears, yelled at police, who stood a few feet away from him. “You guys manipulated the law, this is unconstitutional actions,” he said, as he and other demonstrators believe it’s their constitutional right to be sleeping at the park.
Around 12:15 a.m., LAPD made the announcement: “I hereby declare this as an unlawful assembly.” A police truck pulled into the site and parked in the path, and a police officer announced instructions for everyone, including the media—who were out in full force—to disperse.
A few feet away from Johnson, a group of young demonstrators – possibly in their teens or early-20s —sat in a circle, signaling civil disobedience with their bodies: heads bowed, arms crossed in front—and prepared to get arrested. A police officer approached the group.
“Do you guys want to leave anytime soon?” the officer asked them gently, kneeling down next to them. All around, demonstrators chanted—chants during the night included, “The whole world is watching, the whole world is watching.” Some people yelled at the police to leave them alone and made peace signs with their hands, while helicopters circled overhead.
“If you want to leave you can,” the officer told the group.
Watch footage from this morning’s raid below:
One of the seated protestors, Guido Girgenti, 19, responded to the officer: “If you promise to join the movement ….” An Occidental College student, Girgenti said, “I’m going to sit and peacefully assemble… This is the movement that we need to give our democracy freedom from corporate money or power.”
The LAPD officer told the group that no one would hurt them, then he walked away.
At 12:30 a.m., six LAPD officers wearing white full-body chemical suits – “to protest from bodily fluids,” an officer said to me – came onto the section of the lawn where the group was sitting—the part of the lawn near 1st Street and Main Street.
Girgenti and another young demonstrator in the group of five or six had their phones in their laps, and were sending text messages to their parents about plans to get arrested.
Nearby Johnson, Meg Wade, 28, a bookseller at Skylight Books, stood and observed from in an area that the police had ordered cleared out. Wade hadn’t been camping out at Occupy, but she had been participating on a regular basis. She’d ridden her bike to the site from East Hollywood, and she was still wearing her bike helmet—and snowboard goggles on top of her helmet—when the cops stormed into the encampment.
“I brought my snowboard goggles in case they pepper spray,” Wade said. Many of the demonstrators, preparing for LAPD raids and taking cues from previous clashes between police and demonstrators at Occupy movements across the country, were wearing surgical masks and bandanas around their mouths in anticipation of the use of possible tear-gas and pepper spray.
On Nov. 25, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa ordered that the Occupy camp be cleared out, indicating that at 12:01 a.m. on Monday, police could begin the eviction. The raid Wednesday morning was the LAPD’s second attempt to clear the Occupy L.A. camp. The first took place on Monday, Nov. 28, at around 4 a.m., when the police arrived, addressed the protesters on a loudspeaker and made just four arrests. That attempt was a largely peaceful confrontation between police and Occupiers, and police left most of the protesters in place. The clash Wednesday morning was rowdier.