A possible showdown is brewing at the Occupy LA encampment in downtown Los Angeles. Some of the demonstrators are vowing to defy a new deadline from the city to leave.
Occupying Angelenos have until Monday at 12:01 a.m. to pack up their tents and take down the signs that have decorated City Hall Park for the past 56 days.
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and LAPD Chief Charlie Beck announced the closure of City Hall Park, the current location of Occupy LA’s encampment, Friday during a press conference.
"We are asking the participants in the Occupy LA encampment to begin to pack their belongings and to leave City Hall Park in an orderly manner," said Villaraigosa.
Officers will begin walking through the encampment with information regarding the park closure as a part of the multi-step closure process. Social workers, nearby parking and a set amount of shelter beds will be made available to occupiers as well.
In honor of the spirit of free expression, the mayor said City Hall's historic Spring Street steps, which had become the gathering place for demonstrators’ free speech forums, will remain open during the park's cleaning.
Talk of closing the 1.2-acre park began Monday, after Deputy Mayor Matt Szabo reportedly shared news of the pending eviction with Occupy LA representatives at a meeting. Demonstrators would be given a 72-hour window to leave the area.
"Today is merely the realization that the encampment is no longer sustainable and must end," Beck said at the conference.
He added that this doesn't mean Occupy LA's message must end.
Police will not physically remove remaining protesters past 12:01 a.m. Monday, but will have the ability to enforce the park’s 10 p.m. curfew, Beck said.
Villaraigosa credited the Occupy movement with changing what he called a one-sided conversation in Washington, D.C., that has focused more on cutting spending and social services.
“The movement is now at a crossroads,” he said. “It’s time for Occupy L.A. to move from holding a particular patch of parkland to advance their message. From the start, we said a long term encampment is not sustainable in City Hall Park.”
Police launched a text-message system earlier this week by which any eviction orders from LAPD would be circulated to demonstrators.
“They simply have to text or key the word OLA999 to triple 8, triple 7. Then they can receive messages from the LAPD,” said Lt. Andy Neiman.
Officers will pass out bilingual fliers announcing the eviction plans, social workers will inform people about available social and public health services, and the city will open 50 beds for homeless individuals living in the Occupy encampment, Villaraigosa said.
Before ordering the closure, city officials offered occupiers a downtown office space and two community gardens in exchange for the removal of their nearly 400 tents from the City Hall lawn.
However, the offer, which occupiers were likely to decline, was rescinded soon after.
Villaraigosa said he was proud the Southland’s occupation was a peaceful, non-violence protest, which is more than can be said of other Occupy encampments.
Los Angeles held on to the last big-city encampment. The movement's founding location in New York City’s Zuccotti Park and Occupy grounds in Oakland were forcibly cleared earlier this month.