The Los Angeles Police Department moved in on the Occupy LA protesters at City Hall overnight, arresting at least 200 as many demonstrators refused to leave after an order to disperse. Meanwhile, police in Philadelphia cleared out Occupy protesters from a downtown encampment, arresting at least 50 people.
In LA, police in riot gear brandishing batons descended on the area just after midnight, having been transported en mass by 30 MTA buses from Dodgers Stadium to downtown LA. An estimated 1,000 officers began closing off streets and surrounding the encampment.
“This has been declared an unlawful assembly,” an officer announced to the crowd, according to ABC News Los Angeles affiliate KABC. Protesters were told they had at most 10 minutes to disperse.
“The people united will never be defeated,” responded the crowd of demonstrators. Around 12:15 a.m. police entered the encampment and began carrying out those refusing to walk out, and began tearing down tents.
The number of people arrested totaled at least 200, according to LAPD chief Charlie Beck.
Officers dressed in all white hazmat-like suits and wearing latex gloves and booties with gun belts on the outside then moved in to clean up the camp. Police used a large cherry picker that reads “LAPD Bomb Squad” on the side to pick out the protesters who perched themselves high in trees and refused to come down.
In a statement released early Wednesday, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa addressed the enforcement of City Hall Park’s closure.
“At approximately 12:30 a.m., the LAPD began enforcing the closure of City Hall Park after giving those in the park a final opportunity to leave without facing arrest. We have taken a measured approach to enforcing the park closure because we have wanted to give people every opportunity to leave peacefully. I ask that anyone who remains in the park to please leave voluntarily,” his statement said.
Villaraigosa also said that the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority had previously walked through the park to assess need of those who have nowhere else to go. He added that during the park’s closure, a First Amendment area will remain open on the Spring Street City Hall steps.
Officials earlier in the evening had set a 10:30 p.m. for dispersal of the crowds who have occupied the area since the beginning of October. There was an original deadline for Occupy protesters to vacate City Hall at 12:01 a.m. Monday, but protesters flooded the streets in hundreds, leading police to draw down.
Occupy Los Angeles was one of the first groups in the ‘Occupy’ movement to pop up after Occupy Wall Street began in New York on September 17. It has been one of the largest and least volatile of the worldwide ‘Occupy’ encampments.
The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that rousted protesters roamed around Center City during the night, scattering and regrouping as police tracked their moves.
“We followed them around Center City all night long and finally arrested some of them,” Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey told the newspaper. Three police officers suffered minor injuries, two while making arrests and one while taking down a tent.