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Occupy LA eviction put on hold, but for how long?

Occupy LA protestors were supposed to be evicted at midnight Sunday. But Los Angeles police say they may give the Occupy LA camp a short reprieve.

By Mary SlossonReuters / November 28, 2011

Occupy LA protesters dance to music as they remain at the camp in front of Los Angeles City Hall on Sunday, Nov. 27, 2011.

(AP Photo/Jason Redmond)

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Los Angeles

Police in riot gear began closing in early Monday on some 2,000 anti-Wall Street activists who defied a midnight deadline to vacate an eight-week-old encampment outside Los Angeles City Hall as some protesters blocked traffic.

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Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa had given Occupy LA protesters until midnight local time to dismantle their tents, pack up their belongings and clear out of the City Hall park, or face a forcible removal.

But Jim Lafferty, a National Lawyers Guild attorney and leading advocate for protesters in talks with the city, said two hours after the eviction deadline that police had assured him ``there will be no move against this occupation tonight.''

He said he expected police would end up giving Occupy LA a two-day reprieve and that the only demonstrators risking arrest before then were those who remained in the roadway.

A police commander on the scene, Andrew Smith, confirmed the encampment would be allowed to stay put until at least daybreak. But he said protesters who continued to block traffic had until 4:30 a.m. to move or face arrest.

``We have no plan at this time to go into the park and evict people,'' Smith said. ``That could change in the near future, but right now we are hoping to clear the streets, and that'll be the end and people can relax for a little while.''

Clark Davis, an OccupyLA organizer, said to Smith and a group of officers standing by, ``You guys have been fantastic.''

But some protesters expressed suspicion at word of a reprieve, saying it could be a ploy by police to get them to let down their guard.

SUPPORTERS RALLY TO BOLSTER CAMP

The Los Angeles encampment is among the oldest and largest on the West Coast aligned with a 2-month-old national Occupy Wall Street movement protesting economic inequality, high unemployment and excesses of the U.S. financial system.

Staking its place since Oct. 1 on the grounds surrounding City Hall, the compound has grown to roughly 400 tents and 700 to 800 people, organizers and municipal officials said. At least a third are believed to be homeless.

By Sunday night the size of the crowd outside City Hall swelled further as supporters from organized labor, clergy, civil rights and other groups streamed into the area, answering a call for an eleventh-hour show of support for the campers.

Police estimated the overall number of protesters, some wearing gas masks, had grown to at least 2,000.

Police, who had kept out of sight during the day, began to make their presence known as the eviction deadline came and went, and the mood of the protesters, which had been calm and festive, turned more boisterous and rowdy.

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