The Occupy Wall Street camp in Los Angeles was expecting a raid from police in the early hours of Wednesday morning, but when LAPD moved in to evict the protesters there were more than 200 arrests as many refused to leave the park. As AP reported :
More than 1,400 police officers, some in riot gear, cleared the Occupy Los Angeles camp early Wednesday, driving protesters from a park around City Hall and arresting more than 200 who defied orders to leave. Similar raids in Philadelphia led to 52 arrests, but the scene in both cities was relatively peaceful.
Police in Los Angeles and Philadelphia moved in on Occupy Wall Street encampments under darkness in an effort to clear out some of the longest-lasting protest sites since crackdowns ended similar occupations across the country.
Beanbags fired from shotguns were used to subdue the final three protesters in a makeshift tree house outside Los Angeles City Hall, police Cmdr. Andrew Smith said, describing it as a minor use of force incident. No serious injuries were reported.
Police Chief Charlie Beck praised the officers and the protesters for their restraint and the peaceful way the eviction was carried out.
Officers flooded down the steps of City Hall just after midnight and started dismantling the two-month-old camp two days after a deadline passed for campers to leave the park. Officers in helmets and wielding batons and guns with rubber bullets converged on the park from all directions with military precision and began making arrests after several orders were given to leave.
There were no injuries and no drugs or weapons were found during a search of the emptied camp, which was strewn with trash after the raid. City workers put up concrete barriers to wall off the park while it is restored. As of 5:10 a.m. PST, the park was clear of protesters, said LAPD officer Cleon Joseph.
In Philadelphia, police moved to arrest several protesters who left the Occupy camp as it was being cleared by police and began marching through downtown . As AP explained:
Police have begun arresting a group of roving marchers who left the Occupy Philadelphia encampment near City Hall after officers evicted protesters.
Police began pulling down tents at about 1:20 a.m. Wednesday after telling demonstrators they had to leave. A group of protesters who left Dilworth Plaza began roving through downtown, their march coming to an end with arrests around 5 a.m.
About two dozen protesters were lined up in cuffs and being loaded on to buses by officers who penned in the march near 15th and Spring Garden streets.
The action comes more than two days after the deadline for protesters to leave. They had camped on the plaza since Oct. 6 to protest economic inequality and corporate influence on government.
A $50 million renovation project is planned for the plaza.
Occupy D.C. protesters are looking at their fellow camp evictions with concern, even though D.C. officials have not given an eviction order. As Elizabeth Flock reported :
In D.C., Occupy protesters have interpreted a new notice from the National Park Service as proof that their encampment’s days, too, are numbered, but they say they aren’t going anywhere.
The memo, released Nov. 23, states that U.S. Park Police officers will be increasing patrol activities at McPherson Square and Freedom Plaza “due to increasing problems of public urination and defecation, illegal drug and alcohol use, and assaults.” The memo also reminds protesters that camping is prohibited in both parks.
While the agency says the memo was not intended to be a threat of eviction, members of the Freedom Plaza protest are interpreting it that way, and have issued a response denying accusations of violence, drug and alcohol abuse, and other issues.
The protesters have a reminder for the Park Service, too: “Our actions are protected by the First Amendment. You recognize that we are exercising our First Amendment rights to Freedom of Speech and our Right to Assemble to Redress Grievances. The language of the Amendment could not be clearer.”
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