Los Angeles police began surrounding the Occupy Los Angeles encampment on Tuesday night, nearly two days after a deadline passed for protesters to clear out, as demonstrators with the movement in Philadelphia marched through the streets after being evicted from their site.
Los Angeles police in riot gear holding batons stood in the street facing a line of protesters as hundreds chanted, “The people united will never be defeated.” Someone played the national anthem on a horn as helicopters circled overhead.
More than 1,000 officers who staged for the operation outside Dodger Stadium were briefed on the potential for violence and the possibility that demonstrators could throw everything from concrete to gravel.
“Please put your face masks down and watch each other’s back,” a supervisor told them. “Now go to work.”
The officers clad in riot gear with helmets and with white plastic handcuffs hooked to their belts were taken aboard 30 city buses downtown.
Officers plan to declare an unlawful assembly and give protesters a chance to leave. Those who don’t depart will be arrested.
The operation was planned at night because downtown is mostly vacant, with offices closed, fewer pedestrians and less traffic. But it could make officers more vulnerable.
“It’s more difficult for us to see things, to see booby traps,” Lt. Andy Neiman, told pool reporters. “Operating in the dark is never an advantage.”
Lt. Neiman said the force was prepared to deal with demonstrators barricaded in the camp or holed up in trees in the small park.
About half of some 500 tents remained in Los Angles after a Monday morning eviction deadline and the remaining protesters showed no sign of leaving their weeks-old encampment, which is one of the largest still remaining in the U.S. Before 11 p.m., Los Angeles police had closed off streets surrounding the protest encampment.
The action in Los Angeles came after police in Philadelphia gave protesters three warning they had to leave and began pulling down tents at about 1-20 a.m. on Wednesday. The eviction came more than two days after Philadelphia’s deadline for protesters to remove all structures and belongings from Dilworth Plaza.
“This is a symbolic action, but in another sense this has been our home for almost two months and no one wants to see their home taken away from them,” 22-year-old protester Bri Barton said while also acknowledging she and other would have to leave the site.
Most protesters participated in the march, but a few watched police take down the tents and chanted, “We are the 99 percent.”
Some protesters in Los Angeles shot off fireworks near the camp where Occupy members discussed emergency preparations.
“This is a monumental night for Los Angeles. We’re going to do what we can to protect the camp,” said Gia Trimble, member of the Occupy LA media team.
She said she thought a lot of people would stay and risk arrest, adding, “We’re really committed to this.”
Demonstrators and city officials in both Los Angeles and Philadelphia were hoping any confrontation would be nonviolent, unlike evictions at similar camps around the country.
The movement against economic disparity and perceived corporate greed began with Occupy Wall Street in Manhattan two months ago, and police have removed Occupy demonstrators in other cities. Some of those instances involved pepper spray and tear gas.
In their anticipation of an eviction, the Los Angeles protesters designated medics designated with red crosses taped on clothing. Some protesters had gas masks. Broadcast footage showed police officers boarding buses that had lined up near Dodger Stadium at what appeared to be some sort of staging area.
Organisers at the camp packed up computer and technical equipment from the media tent.
Two men who have constructed an elaborate tree house fashioned a ladder pusher out of bamboo sticks tied together with twine. It was intended to push down a ladder that police may erect to get them out of the tree house.
Members of the National Lawyers guild had legal observers on hand for any possible eviction that may occur.
Pam Noles, a member of the camp media team, said the park is legally closed at 10.30 p.m.