Despite a fast-approaching deadline set by the mayor and police chief, very few of the anti-Wall Street protesters from Occupy Los Angeles had begun breaking down their tents Saturday on the City Hall lawn and most said they didn’t intend to.
The Occupy LA encampment was abuzz with activity, but nearly all of it was aimed at how to deal with authorities come Monday’s 12-01 a.m. (0801 GMT) deadline.
Some handed out signs mocked up to look like the city’s notices to vacate, advertising a Monday morning “eviction block party.”
Dozens attended a teach-in on resistance tactics, including how stay safe in the face of rubber bullets, tear gas canisters and pepper spray.
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced Friday that despite his sympathy for the protesters’ cause, it was time for the camp of nearly 500 tents to leave for the sake of public health and safety.
The mayor said the movement is at a “crossroads,” and it must “move from holding a particular patch of park to spreading the message of economic justice.”
But occupiers did not intend to give up their patch of park too easily.
Will Picard, who sat Saturday in a tent amid his artwork with a “notice of eviction” sign posted outside, said the main organizers and most occupiers he knows intend to stay.
“Their plan is to resist the closure of this encampment and if that means getting arrested so be it,” Picard said. “I think they just want to make the police tear it down rather than tear it down themselves.”
But some agreed with the mayor that the protest had run its course.
“I’m going,” said Luke Hagerman, who sat looking sad and resigned in the tent he’s stayed in for a month. “I wish we could have got more done.”
Villaraigosa expressed pride that Los Angeles has lacked the tension, confrontation and violence seen at similar protests in other cities. But that peace was likely to get its biggest test on Monday.
Police gave few specifics about what tactics they would use for those who had no intention of leaving.
Chief Charlie Beck said at Friday’s news conference that officers would definitely not be sweeping through the camp and arresting everyone just after midnight.
But in an interview with the Los Angeles Times on Sunday, Beck said that despite the lack of confrontations in the camp’s two-month run, he was realistic about what must happen.
“I have no illusions that everybody is going to leave,” Beck said in an interview with the Times. “We anticipate that we will have to make arrests.”
But he added, “We certainly will not be the first ones to apply force.”
Ue Daniels, 21, said as an artist he’s “as nonviolent as they come” but he planned on resisting removal any way he could.
“I think we’ll comply as far as putting our tents on the sidewalk maybe, that’s something that’s been going around.”
But as far as leaving altogether?
“They would probably have to drag me away,” he said.
He also suspected that though the general consensus among campers is to stay, he expects many will change their mind once police arrive. “I don’t know who’s going to stay, you can say something, but you never know until you’re in the situation how you’re going to react.”