Evicted but defiant, Occupy LA faces crisis moment

Police rousted Occupy LA protesters from their encampment Wednesday, meaning the movement must reinvent itself to survive. But Occupy LA leaders say they've got a lot up their sleeves.

Gus Ruelas/AP
A Los Angeles City sanitation worker cleans up the aftermath of Occupy Los Angeles Wednesday after the broke up the large encampment of Occupy LA protesters who had been camping out for the past two months at City Hall.

As nearly 300 arrested Occupy Los Angeles protesters await a bail appeal, the movement itself is facing the larger question of what comes next for what was the largest remaining Occupy movement encampment in the nation.

The occupation, which swelled to nearly 500 tents at its height, was cleared early Wednesday by a force of 1,400 law-enforcement officers.

City sanitation workers are already clearing what truck driver Leo Ramirez told local reporters was “probably 25 or 30 tons of debris,” including sleeping bags, tents, food, clothing, and a random assortment of what one worker dubbed, “biohazards.” 

But activists say their movement is not about their gear – and their message will remain.

"The entire city is now aware of what we are trying to say,” says Lisa Clapier, a member of the Occupy LA media team. “We are ready to move into the neighborhoods and the rest of the city. This hasn’t stopped us at all.”

Dozens of protesters have decamped to a nearby church, La Placita, where she says Father Richard Estrada has given them “indefinite sanctuary.”

The group plans to hold a general assembly Wednesday afternoon and already has plans to locate another park in the financial district to occupy. Beyond that, the group has scheduled further actions, Ms. Clapier notes. On Friday, it will occupy Los Angeles's Norwalk Courthouse, which will hold foreclosure property auctions.

“We are asking for a moratorium on these foreclosures,” says Clapier.

At the morning press conference held by fellow activists, speakers confirmed their commitment to maintain a visible occupation inside Los Angeles. “We will occupy your bank lobbies,” one protester said, adding that Occupy LA would pursue the city elite, occupying country clubs and golf courses, if necessary.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck acknowledged in their own press conference that the Occupy L.A. movement will not be going away any time soon. 

“I expect other protests as Occupy LA works to expand its movement,” said the mayor.

He said he did not believe the movement should be limited to “defending a patch of city park and grass,” but rather spreading its core messages of economic inequalities and what should be done to address them.

But he cautioned the protestors about the future of their actions, noting that they would only be tolerated if they were completely nonviolent. He also warned against further property damage, noting that the cleanup and restoration of the downtown park area could cost the city as much as $1 million.

But Clapier responds that the Occupy LA team had offered a volunteer landscape architect to handle the restoration, but the city turned this offer down.

“They were not maintaining that area in a sustainable manner, and we offered to upgrade and repair it, but we were turned down.” 

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