Occupy City Hall
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It's been a couple of tumultuous days in and around the Occupy LA encampment at City Hall.
First, after nearly months of continuous occupation, the protest showed no signs of moving on. Ever, even to the next phase. It looked as if the green space around City Hall was going to be commandeered by Occupy's tents, and the downtown homeless who drifted over to 1st and Main to join in, on a more or less open-ended basis.
The problem, for Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and others in City Hall, is that the up sides of the protest for them had already happened. They had gotten some media coverage and political points out of embracing the nascent movement at the beginning. But now the tent city had grown to fill all the grass around City Hall, the occupants were settling in for a protracted battle of wills and political theater, and there was the beginnings of backlash. The quasi-controvery over the killing of the grass masked a simmering issue that City Hall had certainly become aware of. People in the building were tired of the park outside City Hall being off limits to them. There was a building resentment around the city, tapped into by KFI's John & Ken, and Daily News columnist Doug McIntyre, of the Occupy followers' presence. Even the filming companies reportedly were irked they couldn't film exterior shots in the vicinity of City Hall while the protesters were there.
So last Friday, late in the day, Villaraigosa and LAPD Chief Charlie Beck announced that the the camp was "not sustainable" and that at 12:01 Monday morning the whole thing would become an illegal event.
That set off a chain of events that's still playing out. Some of the so-called occupiers packed up their tents and left, as the mayor hoped. Occupy used the threat of a midnight raid to drum up sympathy and attract new defenders to the park last night, even though the cops said repeatedly there would be no raid. Media cameras watched (though all but Channel 4 stopped live coverage by the deadline) as tension built and some protesters blocked the streets around City Hall. Four were arrested before the sun came up and the streets were reopened, with Occupy members praising the restraint shown by the LAPD overnight.
Villaraigosa still has no political choice but to get the park to close and the movement to at least shift its venue. How he intends to do that is still unclear, though he vows it will be done without pepper spray or clubs. The next couple of days could actually prove to be a decisive turn in his image as mayor, one way or another.