Mayor: Occupy LA must leave camp Monday

In this Nov. 2, 2011, photo, a Los Angeles police officer looks at tents set up outside Los Angeles City Hall in Los Angeles.
AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File

LOS ANGELES - Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa told Occupy LA protesters on Friday that they must leave their encampment on the lawn of City Hall by 12:01 a.m. Monday.

The mayor and police Chief Charlie Beck praised the protest and its aims at a news conference announcing the planned ouster.

"The movement has awakened the country's conscience, it has given voice to those who have not been heard," Villaraigosa said.

However, he added that from the start, he said the camp of about 485 tents was unsustainable.

"It is time to close the park and repair the grounds, so that we can restore public access to the park," the mayor said.

As reported by CBS station KCBS Los Angeles, demonstrators interrupted the announcement by Villaraigosa and Beck and were against the decision.

"As a collective, Occupy Los Angeles would like to express their rejection of the city of Los Angeles's alleged proposal that we leave City Hall," said Jeremy Rothe-Kushel, who said he represented the general assembly of Occupy LA and interrupted both Villaraigosa and Beck throughout the news conference.

It was not clear how much of the camp Rothe-Kushel spoke for, but the group issued a statement Thursday expressing the same sentiment.

KCBS also added that as of Monday, 50 shelter beds would be provided to those protesters who are homeless and need a place to stay.

"50 beds? There are at least 300 of us," said Occupy LA protester Opamago Casciani, 20. "I personally plan to stay and stand my ground."

Villaraigosa told campers to start packing up their tents and said he believed the move would be peaceful.

"I'm proud of the fact that this has been a peaceful non-violent protest," he said. "It is peaceful because we've decided to do things differently in Los Angeles. We've not stared each other down across barricades and barbed wire."

According to KCBS, James Lafferty of the National Lawyers Guild said his association will work on a legal defense of the protesters that would also consist of those who are possibly arrested for not obeying the evacuation order.

Protester Stephanie Lopez, 18, was sitting on those steps Friday evening after the announcement. Surveying the tent city below her and looking back on the 400-square-foot mezzanine where protesters would have to stand, she shook her head and said "that's ridiculous."

Lopez been living at City Hall Park since Oct. 2, when there were only a handful of tents, and plans to stay through the deadline.

"It's a complete offense to us — this grass isn't even good for the environment," said Lopez.

If the movement has to move, Lopez hopes occupiers will take over an abandoned building somewhere downtown.

Beck said police will be patient with laggards who were still packing belongings and working to leave at the time of the deadline — but said the city's law enforcement will no longer look the other way.

"After 56 days of not enforcing three city laws that prohibit the use of that park, the time is now," said Beck.