Occupy LA camp cleanup takes hazmat suits, masks

Discussion in 'Politics & Religion' started by Trader666, Dec 1, 2011.

  1. Occupy LA camp cleanup takes hazmat suits, masks
    By CHRISTINA HOAG Associated Press
    Posted: 11/30/2011 10:20:09 AM PST
    Updated: 11/30/2011 07:02:30 PM PST

    LOS ANGELES—Sanitation workers wearing hazmat suits and masks moved into City Hall park Wednesday to clean up tons of trash, debris and human waste after police evicted the 2-month-old Occupy LA tent camp and arrested almost 300 people in a mostly non-violent pre-dawn raid.

    Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said the cleanup and repair to the damaged lawn and park facilities would cost the city hundreds of thousands of dollars, possibly more than $1 million.

    City workers installed concrete barriers around the park around 5 a.m. when the park was finally clear of protesters after a sweep by 1,400 police officers.

    Dozens of protesters gathered Wednesday night on the steps of City Hall, near the site of the cleared-out camp, to discuss future plans for the movement. The demonstration was peaceful and no arrests or problems were reported, police said.

    The raid, which started shortly after midnight when swarms of riot-clad officers flooded the park, was conducted largely without violence by either police or protesters.

    "It was a restrained application of overwhelming force that perfectly responded to the actions of the crowd," said Police Chief Charlie Beck.

    It marked a new leaf for a department that has been heavily criticized in the past for its use of heavy-handed force, including the 1992 beating of Rodney King and a 2007 immigration march where batons and rubber bullets were used on a mostly peaceful crowd.

    "We took a measured approach, we did not dismiss the protesters out of hand," Villaraigosa said at a news conference. "What we demonstrated in this town is that working together we can respect the rights of people to speak out against the government."

    Some protesters took issue with the official version of non-violence.

    "I saw a woman being pushed down the steps, people being jabbed with batons," said Julia Wallace, member of movement's Committee to End Police Brutality. "I saw someone thrown to the ground."

    Pam Noles, a legal observer at the protest, said a 21-year-old man was shot on the hand with rubber bullets, resulting in nasty bruising.

    Police said there were three minor use-of-force incidents that did not result in serious injuries.

    Paul Weber, president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, said people subject themselves to consequences when they do not obey an officer's order.

    Following the expected ouster, Occupy activists were regrouping and preparing for a new phase of their movement.

    Organizer Mario Brito told a news conference Wednesday that activists plan to step up pressure on elected leaders and bank officials to halt foreclosures. Occupations are planned for neighborhoods where executives live, he said.

    The raid followed weeks of negotiations between city officials and protest organizers to come to a peaceful end to the camp, which had mushroomed to some 500 tents, many occupied by the homeless, mentally ill and drug users.

    After initially welcoming the protest two months ago, city officials said it was a public health hazard and damaging the park. City Hall even offered Occupy LA a 10,000-square-foot vacant building to use as a headquarters and empty lots for community gardens in a bid to get them to leave without resistance.

    The offer was withdrawn after it was publicized and drew criticism.

    City officials then toughened their stance, warning last week that the camp would be cleared this week without notice.

    Word of the impending raid spread through the camp Tuesday evening.

    By 10 p.m., the park was packed with about 400 people, including members of the Service International Employees Union and supporters from throughout the city who had heeded pleas issued via Twitter for people to come to the site.

    The atmosphere was festive, although protesters prepared themselves for police with gas masks, phone numbers for lawyers and trash can barricades at the park's entrances.

    Police waited to move in until after midnight and the crowd had thinned. Riot-clad officers who had quietly arrived in surrounding streets secured the park within minutes. Some officers were inside City Hall and burst through doors that opened onto the park.

    People were given 10 minutes to leave the park or face arrest, while a line of police officers forced the crowd of onlookers down the street until the thoroughfare was clear.

    A group of about 20 protesters had already decided to be arrested and linked arms in a circle around a tent in the park plaza. They said their arrests were statements of protest about economic injustice.

    "It's worth being arrested for," said Sean Woodward, 28.

    Scores of others later joined them and a handful scrambled up trees to evade capture. Police called in a high-tech cherry-picker vehicle dubbed the "Bat Cat" that lifted officers into the trees to haul out five protesters.

    The final three protesters, who were holed up in an elaborate tree house built in a cluster of palm trees, were subdued after officers fired beanbags at them, police Cmdr. Andrew Smith said.

    A total of 292 people were arrested, mostly for failure to disperse an unlawful assembly. One person was arrested for investigation of interference with a police officer, while another was taken into custody for battery on an officer.

    The vast majority of protesters did not resist arrest and were taken off to jail by the busload.

    Both the police and the protesters earned praise from policing experts.

    "The officers on the ground understood what their parameters were. There was good command and control of boots on the ground," said Richard Weinblatt, a former police chief who is now a law enforcement consultant. "The protesters were restrained. They did not provoke the officers."

    Officers have been better trained to cope with large crowds and they fostered a daily dialogue with Occupy LA organizers, Smith said.

    "We learned we have to figure out a way to better handle these situations," Smith said.

    One of the challenges police faced with the Occupy movement was the varying factions and the lack of leadership. However, police credit Occupy LA's pledge to not be violent in getting a peaceful resolution.

    "We worked well with the protesters and it showed in the end," Smith said.

    The raid stood in stark contrast to evictions at similar camps around the country that sometimes involved pepper spray, tear gas and batons. The movement against economic disparity and perceived corporate greed began with Occupy Wall Street in Manhattan two months ago.

    By dawn, trash, flattened tents, strewn clothing, bedding and the stench of urine were the legacy of the Occupy LA.

    "It's so contaminated that it doesn't even make sense to sort it out," said Jose Garcia, sanitation superintendent of the city north central district.

    An estimated 25 tons of trash and debris were to be carted away by mid-afternoon. Workers were finding bottles of urine throughout the camp.

    "That's probably the biggest hazard there," Garcia said.

  2. pspr


    "25 tons of trash..."

    Wow. Couldn't they at least get a couple dumsters placed out on the curb for their trash?