OLA eviction imminent

November 27, 2011

(Dan Bluemel / LA Activist)

Occupy LA’s eviction date – Monday, Nov. 28, 12:01 a.m. – is only hours away.

Activists are busily planning and strategizing on how best to deal with having their makeshift homes uprooted.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who once embraced the occupiers with open arms, said the movement is “at a crossroads,” because it is “not sustainable.”

“It is a question of whether energy will be consumed to defend a particular patch of earth or whether that energy will be channeled to spreading the message of economic equality and signing more people up for the push to restore the balance to American society,” he said in a Nov. 25 letter to Occupy LA.

The mayor cited “public health and safety concerns” as the prime necessity for closing the park.

Getting rid of the protesters camped out on his lawn had been on the mayor’s mind for over a month. On Oct. 26, he spoke publicly about the issue after health inspectors reported concerns about the cleanliness of the camp.

“Look, our lawn is dead, our sprinklers aren’t working … our trees are without water,” he said, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The mayor’s decision to evict the sit-in demonstration comes after a week of seemingly coordinated attacks on the occupy movement, often with intense police brutality. According to Mark Crispin Miller, an author and professor of media studies at New York University, Homeland Security, the FBI and other federal police agencies have offered advice to local law enforcement in silencing occupy demonstrations around the country.

“In several recent conference calls and briefings, local police agencies were advised to seek a legal reason to evict residents of tent cities, focusing on zoning laws and existing curfew rules,” wrote Miller.

In Los Angeles, between City Hall and the Los Angeles Times, arguments to evict occupiers focused on dead grass, alleged public health and safety issues and an uptick in crime around City Hall. City Attorney Carmen Trutanich wanted the occupy demonstration broken up early on simply because protesters were violating park hours.

Occupier Richard Florence was not convinced by City Hall’s alleged reasons behind the eviction.

“It’s not okay to mess up this grass, but it’s okay to completely destroy the whole Gulf of Mexico, ruin the Amazon, destroy the Ganges River, or spill oil all over Nigeria,” he said.  “They say [they are concerned about health], but all the low-income people have diabetes. Nobody cares about health. It’s all a joke.”

Matt Ward, an LA occupier, feels the recent attacks on the occupy movement is no accident. The attacks are, he said, a result of protesters “asking the right questions” and threatening the power structure.

“It’s no coincidence,” he said. “[Occupy Wall Street] picked the right target and they focused America’s eyes on the right target.”

Bilal Ali, a homeless rights advocate at Occupy LA, called the coming eviction “an assault on the First Amendment.” He said the city does not have a valid reason to evict the occupiers, because issues of public health and safety can be treated without removing protesters.

“All they have is force,” he said. “We’ve been effective in what we are doing [and] they don’t fuck with you if you’re not having an effect.”

Naomi Wolf recently echoed these statements in the UK’s Guardian newspaper. When she learned that occupiers wanted to stifle corporate and financial power, wanted legislation that blunted the Citizens United ruling and laws against congressional insider-trading, the reason for the recent state oppression became clear to her.

“Of course, these unarmed people would be having the shit kicked out of them,” she wrote.

Occupier Paul Murufas expects a large outpouring of support Monday, as long as protesters play their cards right.

“If people see us using a lot of violence there will be less public sympathy,” he said. “I think either way, there is going to be a huge uproar in the city.”

Protesters are organizing an “eviction block party” for late Sunday night. As of Saturday, it was unclear if occupiers were ready for the eviction or had done enough non-violence training so as to effectively deal with police.

Although he admits it is time for the occupation move on, Florence is sad to see it end. Sitting on the south steps of City Hall, he had just finished helping calm down a troubled youth who was on the verge of getting arrested by police.

“The movement needs to progress beyond the occupation. This is not sustainable,” he said. “But the humanity here is amazing. You have all these people here who would otherwise not be hanging out, let alone getting along, and they are learning to co-exist with each other.”

Ali, who resides with a contingent of homeless on the City Hall lawn, said his group plans to stay despite the eviction. He is taking a more tongue-in-cheek approach to the occupation’s end.

“I got a new gas mask, and I really want to use it. There’s no use in having it sit there,” he said.

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