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Los Angeles officials want Occupy camp gone by next week

Los Angeles officials don't pinpoint a day for Occupy group to leave but promise 'ample notice.' Many protesters say they intend to stay on.

November 24, 2011|By Kate Linthicum, Los Angeles Times
  • Members of various factions of Occupy L.A vie for the attention of television cameras during a news conference Wednesday.
Members of various factions of Occupy L.A vie for the attention of television… (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles…)

Los Angeles officials want Occupy L.A. protesters to ditch their City Hall encampment by next week so the city can begin restoring the 1.7-acre park where the group has been living for nearly two months.

An aide to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa would not say what day the city plans to close the park — or exactly how much warning protesters will be given. But during a meeting Wednesday with several protesters, the aide, Deputy Chief of Staff Matt Szabo, said they would receive "ample notice."

News of the park's closure was met with dismay at the Occupy camp, where many of the more than 100 protesters say they are intent on staying. Immediately, some began plotting what to do in the event of a police raid, with some saying that mobilizing outside supporters to stand with the protesters would be key.

FULL COVERAGE: 'Occupy' protests

Many in the camp have been preparing for this moment after watching police sweeps of Occupy camps in New York, Oakland and other cities. Last week, 21-year-old college student Michael Gray said he had purchased a gas mask in case police seek to break up L.A.'s encampment, the largest remaining Occupy protest in the country.

In recent weeks, officials from the mayor's office and the Police Department have met privately with a group of Occupy L.A. participants to talk about what comes next for the protest, sometimes meeting several times a day. At least three protesters, Mario Brito, Scott Shuster and Jim Lafferty, have been present at most of the meetings.

Lafferty, director of the National Lawyers Guild of Los Angeles, said he walked out of one such meeting Wednesday afternoon in anger after officials announced that they would be closing the park next week. He said he told city officials they "have not been operating with good faith."

Officials earlier this week offered the protesters work space in a city building, along with a package of other incentives to encourage them to peacefully abandon their camp, according to Lafferty. But he said city officials wavered on that offer Tuesday.

Lafferty said the city had not given him and the other liaisons enough time to discuss the proposal with the rest of the protesters.

Some at the camp have complained that they were excluded from negotiations.

"We're not being represented properly," said protester Kylene Wolfstein, who said she wished city officials would come to address the entire body of protesters at the nightly general assembly meeting.

Szabo said the mayor's office would continue its talks with protesters, and he referred questions about evictions from the park to the Police Department.

Police officials declined to discuss how they would handle any campers who refuse to leave.

Los Angeles Times staff writer Andrew Blankstein contributed to this report.

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