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Occupy L.A. receives offer to decamp

Protesters could get downtown office space and farmland if they leave City Hall.

November 22, 2011|By Kate Linthicum, Los Angeles Times
  • Jim Lafferty, who has been negotiating with city officials on behalf of Occupy L.A., addresses protesters.
Jim Lafferty, who has been negotiating with city officials on behalf of… (Robert Lachman, Los Angeles…)

Los Angeles officials have offered Occupy L.A. protesters a package of incentives that includes downtown office space and farmland in an attempt to persuade them to abandon their camp outside of City Hall, according to several demonstrators who have been in negotiations with the city.

The details of the proposal were revealed Monday during the demonstration's nightly general assembly meeting by Jim Lafferty, an attorney with the National Lawyers Guild who has been advocating on behalf of the protest since it began seven weeks ago.

Lafferty said city officials have offered protesters a $1-a-year lease on a 10,000-square-foot office space near City Hall. He said officials also promised land elsewhere for protesters who wish to farm, as well as additional housing for the contingent of homeless people who joined the camp.

Photos: Occupy protests go global

A spokesman for the mayor would not comment on the proposal, saying only: "We are in negotiations with organizers of Occupy L.A."

Los Angeles has been one of the most accommodating cities in the nation for its Occupy encampment.

Officials here said they do not want the demonstration to end violently and have steered away from police raids like those in New York, Oakland and other cities.

It is unclear whether the protesters will give up their camp.

The proposals were received with a mix of excitement, anger and disbelief among protesters, many of whom did not know that members of the camp were in negotiations with city officials.

"I don't appreciate people appointing themselves to represent me, to represent us," one woman called out during the assembly. "Who was in those meetings?"

"It's divide and conquer," another protester said.

Mario Brito, a protester who helped organize the demonstration and has been in the city meetings, said the office space could be an opportunity to expand the protest.

Protesters have begun organizing a general strike in Los Angeles.

But Brito told the crowd, "It's not going to happen if we spend 90% of our time arguing about camp issues."

Lafferty said he told city officials that protesters may not agree to the proposed exit strategy.

"I have made it clear that there are some people who would want to stay and others who want to take that offer," he said, adding that the offer of office space will remain even if some "stay here and decide to get arrested."

Lafferty, who said he talks regularly to Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck, said police "have said that the day is growing near when they will not allow the occupation in its present form to continue."

After Lafferty announced the proposal, the protesters discussed it and other alternatives.

Protesters planned to meet again Tuesday to talk about their options.

Photos: Occupy protests go global

kate.linthicum@latimes.com

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