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Occupy LA deadline comes, many say they won’t go

LOS ANGELES >> With the clock winding down on a midnight deadline to abandon their weeks-old Occupy Los Angeles protest, hundreds of demonstrators weren’t going anywhere Sunday, as they made plans instead to hold an "eviction block party."

Although city officials have told protesters they must leave and take their nearly 500 tents with them by 12:01 a.m. Monday, just a handful were seen packing up Sunday.

Instead, some passed out fliers containing the city seal and the words: "By order of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, this notice terminates your tenancy and requires you to attend the Occupy L.A. Eviction Block Party," which the fliers’ said was scheduled for 12:01 a.m.

Others attended teach-ins on resistance tactics, including how to stay safe should police begin firing rubber bullets or breaking out tear gas canisters and pepper spray.

"Their plan is to resist the closure of this encampment and if that means getting arrested so be it," said Will Picard, one of the protesters. "I think they just want to make the police tear it down rather than tear it down themselves."

Police, for their part, have said little about what tactic they would take if protesters ignore the deadline.

Chief Charlie Beck told reporters Friday that officers would definitely not be sweeping through the camp and arresting everyone the minute the clock ticks past midnight.

But in an interview with the Los Angeles Times that was published Sunday, Beck indicated he expects that arrests will become inevitable at some point.

"I have no illusions that everybody is going to leave," Beck said. "We anticipate that we will have to make arrests."

When it comes to that, he said, police officers "will not be the first ones to apply force."

Meanwhile, local clergy and labor leaders implored both sides to ensure that the 2-month-old demonstration remain peaceful.

"We are grateful to the Occupy movement for refocusing the country to the issue of income inequality," Maria Elena Durazo, executive secretary and treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, said in a statement issued Sunday.

"We call for nonviolence in all acts of civil disobedience by Occupy LA and in professional procedures by the LAPD. We are committed to a long-term movement from the 99 percent to hold Wall Street and the banks accountable for devastating our economy," Durazo added.

Villaraigosa has expressed admiration that, at least so far, the Occupy Los Angeles movement has remained peaceful, unlike those in some other cities around the country.

But while the mayor, a former labor organizer himself, has said he sympathizes with the movement, he added it’s time to close the encampment of some 500 tents that dot the lawn in front of City Hall for the sake of public health and safety.

The 2-month-old movement is also at a crossroads, Villaraigosa said, and must "move from holding a particular patch of park to spreading the message of economic justice."

Although most protesters showed no signs of moving Monday, a few did seem to support the mayor’s sentiments.

"I’m going," said Luke Hagerman, who sat looking sad and resigned in the tent he’s lived in for a month. "I wish we could have got more done."


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