'Occupy' LA stays put after eviction deadline

Handful of arrests made as police refuse to use extreme force against 400 demonstrators

Los Angeles

The city of Los Angeles was still "occupied" last night, as protesters defied an official deadline to clear an encampment where they have been demonstrating since October against America's widening wealth gap.

Riot police descended late on Sunday on the public space surrounding City Hall, where about 400 tents and 800 members of the so-called "99 per cent" have spent the past seven weeks, but officers withdrew after six hours.

They had hoped to enforce an order by the Mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa, for the site to be cleared by midnight. But unlike their pepper-spraying counterparts in other US cities, they were not willing to use extreme force.

A stand-off duly ensued. By dawn yesterday, the City Hall encampment remained untouched but surrounding streets were mostly clear of demonstrators, allowing the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) to claim success in preventing major roads from being blocked during Monday's rush-hour.

The pervading atmosphere was cordial and just four arrests were reported during the overnight operation.

There is little sign that protesters can be persuaded to vacate peacefully what is now the largest and longest-established "occupy" site in the US. LA's civic leaders, along with powerful local trade unions, strongly support both the group's right to protest and its aims. Mayor Villaraigosa, a Democrat, has praised the demonstrators for "bringing much-needed attention to growing disparities in our country", and last month even toured the encampment handing out free anoraks to residents.

Over time, however, the authorities have become increasingly concerned about sanitary conditions at the site, on what is officially designated as parkland. Last week, they tried to persuade campers to leave voluntarily, offering to lease them a 10,000 square foot office nearby for the peppercorn rent of $1 a year. Mr Villaraigosa also promised to give the Occupy movement a tract of land on the outskirts of LA, which could be turned into a communal farm.

His office reportedly said the 200 or so protesters who are currently homeless would be offered public housing. The offer was criticised in many quarters – either for being over-generous, or for setting an irresponsible precedent which could be exploited by special interest groups for years to come. But the residents of the Occupy encampment nonetheless refused to accept it.

Many observers were flummoxed by that decision. Even among supporters, there is now, in private, growing frustration at the Occupy movement's failure to leverage a growing profile into concrete achievements. It has no official leadership and is yet to outline a coherent set of policy positions or long-term goals, beyond merely staying put. Under the protocol by which encampments are run, all substantive decisions on future policy must be supported by 90 per cent of residents before they can take effect. Critics say that makes it virtually impossible to achieve consensus on any issue at all.

In cities such as Oakland, generally-supportive civic leaders have duly grown weary of attempting to do business with the protesters, and have instead asked the police to forcibly remove them, with violent consequences.

For the time being, at least, LA intends to learn from their mistakes. "We will enforce the law on our own time, when it makes sense to me as someone responsible for not only the safety of my police officers but for the safety of the people of that park," said the LAPD chief, Charlie Beck.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: SThree were established in 1986....

Recruitment Genius: SAGE Bookkeeper & PA to Directors

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has ari...

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Executive

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An On-line Sales & Customer Ser...

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Assistant - Fixed Term Contract - 6 Months

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the largest hospitality companies...

Day In a Page

Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map