By CHRISTINA HOAG and GEOFF MULVIHILL, Associated Press
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- For now, Wall Street protesters camped out on the Los Angeles City Hall lawn still have their tent city after defying a deadline to pack up and clear out. "Still occupied," read the sign of a protester up in a tree.
Hours after emerging from a possible confrontation with police largely unscathed on Monday, demonstrators turned to the federal courts to keep officers away.
(SCROLL DOWN FOR LIVE UPDATES)
They are arguing that the City Council had passed a resolution in support of Occupy Los Angeles and that the city's mayor and police did not have the authority to evict them.
The chances that protesters will get an injunction appear slim, constitutional experts say.
Until there is a decision, the tent city's inhabitants are left to wonder if and when police will push them out -- and if there will be the kind of violence that has engulfed evictions in other cities when they do.
City officials say they will only move in on the camp when conditions are safest not just for protesters and officers but also the roughly 100 homeless people who had joined the encampment.
"There is no concrete deadline," LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said after hundreds of officers withdrew without moving in on the nearly 2-month-old camp.
The effort should come "with as little drama as possible," Beck told reporters.
Police and protesters have clashed elsewhere in recent weeks, most notably in Oakland, Calif., as officers cleared away camps that officials say have grown more dangerous for public health and safety.
Nine people were arrested in Maine on Monday after protesters at an encampment took down their tents and packed their camping gear after being told to get a permit or move their shelters.
Some of the encampments had been in use almost since the movement against economic disparity and perceived corporate greed began with Occupy Wall Street in Manhattan two months ago.
With each passing week, it seems a city moves in to close a camp. Like Los Angeles, Philadelphia officials imposed their own deadline for protesters to move to make way for a construction project.
On Monday, however, the camp was still standing.
In Los Angeles, protesters had prepared for police action since city leaders announced last week that the camp would be cleared. Campers had packed up about half of the nearly 500 tents.
Some protesters carried gas masks and one had even fashioned one out of duct tape and a plastic bottle.
Some activists had built a tree house out of wooden pallets in a clump of palm trees to make it more difficult to be arrested, while others just sat in a circle with their tents in the plaza.
"I definitely expected to be in jail by 3 a.m.," said Sean Woodward. "I'm happy we're still here."
Protesters chanted "we won, we won" as police left after only four arrests during a largely peaceful, six-hour demonstration against the eviction. The arrests were on charges of failure to disperse.
Instead of moving in to clear the camp, as had been expected, police concentrated on clearing several hundred protesters who had spilled into the street so morning rush-hour traffic would not be affected.
Hours later, several demonstrators asked a federal judge for an injunction against the city.
The civil rights complaint contends that Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa usurped the City Council's authority when he set a deadline of 12:01 a.m. Monday for the tent-dwellers to disband.
The council passed a resolution of support for the occupiers in October that effectively allowed them to remain on the lawn despite a city ban on overnight camping, the complaint argued.
"The City Council welcomed them with open arms and said they could stay as long as they want," said Jim Lafferty, executive director of the Los Angeles chapter of the National Lawyers Guild.
"The mayor simply does not have the authority to do this," he said.
The city attorney's office had not been served with the complaint and could not comment on it, spokesman John Franklin said. However, he said the city was prepared to oppose any injunction.
"We'll be in court," he said.
Constitutional law experts were skeptical of the injunction's chances.
The U.S. Supreme Court has held that while public parks can be used for protests, they are for the use of all people, not just one group, and that governments can restrict how a park is used for free speech purposes.
"Parks are open to free speech, but that's not a place they can authorize as their own home," said Eugene Volokh, a First Amendment expert at the University of California, Los Angeles, School of Law.
Mulvihill reported from Philadelphia. Associated Press writers John Rogers and Andrew Dalton in Los Angeles, Kathy Matheson in Philadelphia, and Glenn Adams in Augusta, Maine, contributed to this story.
03/20/2012 6:12 PM EDT
Trouble At Occupied Apartment Building Splits Occupy Miami
Via HuffPost Miami:
When an Occupy Miami member offered evicted protestors vacant apartments in a building he owns in Downtown Miami's Overtown neighborhood, it seemed like the perfect solution: the 'Peace City' space would provide headquarters for the movement and shelter a small faction of the group's most vulnerable members. But it hasn't gone well. Other tenants say the building has become a cesspool of drug use and violence while non-resident Occupy Miami members are trying to distance themselves from the 'radicals' -- all while the two factions are wrestling for control over Occupy Miami's social media sites and future plans.
The feud between the Overtown occupiers and more mainstream members has only gotten worse. The two factions are now battling for control of Occupy Miami's social media sites. The movement's main Twitter account recently announced it had been "hijacked by a small, non-consensus group of radical members." The Occupy Miami Facebook page was also temporarily hacked by someone inside Peace City. Meanwhile, the Overtown occupation is slowly driving away more moderate members.
"This is a black eye on the Occupy movement," says Shannon Reaze, an Overtown community organizer and Occupy Miami supporter who is now helping tenants move out of Paz's building. "The violence and drugs going on here are way outside of what I thought Occupy stood for. This place is destabilized."
...The supposedly hard-core activists here spend their days drinking and getting high. And as Peace City devolves into lawlessness, the most committed occupiers are leaving. Local landowners and politicians want the place shut down, while cops are suspicious. Yet as long as Paz wants the protesters around, nothing short of a demolition order can keep them out.
03/19/2012 6:32 PM EDT
Occupy DC Protesters Sue MPD
Via HuffPost DC:
WASHINGTON -- Occupy DC has a new lawsuit involving tents on its hands. But it doesn't involve temporary structures in McPherson Square.
Two protesters arrested during a February action outside Merrill Lynch's offices on 15th Street NW near McPherson Square have filed suit against the Metropolitan Police Department, Legal Times reports. (Read the complaint here.)
The plaintiffs, Samuel Dukore and Kelly Canavan, were part of a "targeted occupation" of Merrill Lynch on Feb. 13 where protesters were raising awareness about Merrill Lynch's reportedly close ties with Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.). Issa, for his part, claims that the reports of these close ties are "wildly inaccurate."
Full story here.
03/19/2012 12:20 PM EDT
Occupy Wall Street Attempts To Occupy Union Square
OWS reports via its website:
After the brutal attack on the attempted re-occupation of Liberty Square by NYPD on the 6-month anniversary of #OWS, a number of Occupiers have relocated their base of occupation to Union Square in midtown Manhattan, a point of convergence for several #OWS protests over the past 6 months.
According to reports on the ground, several dozen people slept in the park after the illegal and violent raid on Liberty Square. Over 70 people remain, now on Day 3. Although tents and tables are still banned, Occupiers have brought blankets and sleeping gear. Many are calling it ¨the new Occupation.¨ In addition to holding General Assemblies, Union Square Occupiers are providing vital jail support for those arrested on #M17 as they are released from NYPD custody. So far, the NYPD has made no attempt to remove Occupiers or prevent them from sleeping in the park.
03/18/2012 10:35 AM EDT
Watch: Another Video Documenting Woman's Arrest
03/18/2012 10:34 AM EDT
NY Observer ID's Victim
The woman had the apparent seizure has been identified by the New York Observer as Cecily McMillan:
Cecily McMillan, an Occupy Wall Street activist once profiled in Rolling Stone, suffered a seizure Saturday night during protest action near Zuccotti Park. Many on-scene reported Ms. McMillan had trouble breathing after she was tackled and handcuffed by law enforcement.
A video uploaded to Youtube late Saturday night purports to show the attack. Two women can be heard commenting, “There’s Cecily,” then there is confusion as the police clearly perform a violent take-down on someone in the crowd.
According to Jeff Sharlet’s November, 2011 article about the Occupy Movement, this may be Ms. McMillan’s second violent encounter with police.
To read the full story, go here.
03/18/2012 10:33 AM EDT
Watch: Woman Who Had Apparent Seizure Brutalized By Police
Cops caught on video about 10 seconds in taking down the woman who had the apparent seizure:
03/18/2012 10:32 AM EDT
'Stop Pushing Us!'
Watch video from inside Zuccotti Park as police moved in late last night:
- Show quoted text -
03/18/2012 10:31 AM EDT
New York Times Reports Alleged Police Abuse
The paper reports from last night's chaos at Zuccotti Park:
At one point, a woman who appeared to be suffering from seizures flopped on the ground in handcuffs as bystanders shouted for the police to remove the cuffs and provide medical attention. For several minutes the woman lay on the ground as onlookers made increasingly agonized demands until an ambulance arrived and the woman was placed inside.
By 12:20 a.m., a line of officers pushed against some of the remaining protesters, forcing them south on Broadway, at times swinging batons and shoving people to the ground.
Kobi Skolnick, 30, said that officers pushed him in several directions and that as he tried to walk away, he was struck from behind in the neck. “One of the police ran and hit me with a baton,” he said.
To read the full story, go here.