Los Angeles – Los Angeles police officers, scores of them in riot gear, dismantled an Occupy encampment at around 12:30 a.m. on Wednesday, after allowing hundreds of protesters to camp in front of City Hall for weeks.
When the police moved in, protesters scrambled out of the park and gathered in large groups in the surrounding streets. The police said they arrested 200 people.
By 3 a.m. the area around City Hall was quiet — the camp had mostly been cleared and police were focusing on a few protesters who had climbed up trees with their tents. The park was a sea of collapsed tents and litter. Several protesters who had linked arms in a circle were carried out by officers.
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa arrived just as the last protesters were being evicted.
“We have taken a measured approach to enforcing the park closure because we have wanted to give people every opportunity to leave peacefully. I ask that anyone who remains in the park to please leave voluntarily,” he said in a statement released earlier in the night. “Our approach also recognized the human need in the encampment.”
He added that after the park closed “a First Amendment area will remain open on the Spring Street City Hall steps.”
Although the atmosphere was tense, there were no reports of major scuffles with officers. The Los Angeles Police Department has long battled a reputation for excessive force but has received mostly praise for the way it has handled the Occupy protest.
An estimated 1,200 officers were called in for the operation late Tuesday. Police appeared to start dismantling from inside the camp and then proceeded to try to clear the remaining streets. By 2 a.m., there were few protesters left in the park, but officers were still trying to disperse a large crowd just a block away.
Mayor Villaraigosa announced a deadline of 12:01 a.m. Monday for protesters to leave the park, but that deadline came and went without any eviction.
In Philadelphia early on Wednesday, police officers began to clear out a nearly two-month-old encampment next to City Hall. They met little resistance from protesters, many of whom marched elsewhere in the city after the police arrived at the site.
“This is what the Occupy movement is about — about being present, about getting our message out,” said Chris Goldstein, an organizer for Occupy Philadelphia.
There were no reports of violence, but some demonstrators were arrested in what Mr. Goldstein called a “civil disobedience” action. Live aerial pictures from a local television station showed other protesters being detained about a mile north of City Hall, where they had marched. “You can’t evict an idea,” the local movement’s Facebook page declared.
City officials had ordered protesters to vacate their tent encampment at the plaza by Sunday evening to make way for a pending construction project. But the officials decided to give the protesters extra time to leave, and they issued several orders to disperse before moving in on Wednesday.
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