Los Angeles police officers cleared out the Occupy LA encampment early Tuesday morning. KNBC-TV reports.
After a long night for police and protesters, Occupy encampments in Los Angeles and Philadelphia were empty Wednesday morning. The cities were dealing with the aftermath of the two-month occupations — legal battles and park clean-up. And though the mass roundup in Los Angeles remained largely nonviolent, it sparked debate over whether jail officials were being unnecessarily punitive.
The Los Angeles police worked throughout the night to process the 292 people arrested, all but two of whom who were booked for refusing to leave City Hall and nearby intersections after the city declared those to be unlawful assemblies. Bail for the misdemeanor charges was set at $5,000 each.
Masked sanitation workers hauled away 25 tons of debris from the lawns around Los Angeles City Hall after police raided the protesters' camp in the middle of the night and arrested more than 300 people.
In Philadelphia, dozens of police patrolled a plaza outside City Hall after sweeping it of demonstrators and arresting 50.
Because of the large number of arrests in Los Angeles, protesters were taken to three different jail facilities for booking, and spokesmen who were reached said they did not know how many remained in custody at 2 p.m. PST.
A bail bondsman in Los Angeles said that he had received three calls from family members on behalf of protesters, but that he couldn’t help until they were completely processed. He said that could take up to 24 hours.
“We are not able to move forward on these bonds is because they are still processing people in,” said Greg Rynerson, an owner of Rynerson’s Bail Bonds. The procedures — getting fingerprinted, photographed, run through background checks — normally take one to six hours after arrest, he said.
“But when you have this kind of volume, I imagine the jail staff is completely overwhelmed,” he said.
By accounts from both sides, the police operation in Los Angeles remained largely peaceful. There was one arrest for interfering with a law enforcement officer and one for battery on a police officer, according to LAPD public information officer Andrew Smith.
“The people who were arrested pretty much were volunteers to be arrested — as they have at other rallies,” Smith said.
At a news conference Wednesday morning, Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck proclaimed his officers' operation a success.
Lucy Nicholson / Reuters
A Los Angeles police officer walks through the vacated site of Occupy LA outside City Hall on Wednesday. Demonstrators were camped here for two months to protest economic inequality and financial system excesses.
"The world was watching… and what the world saw was an elegant operational plan that was brilliantly executed by America's finest police force," Beck said.
NBC Los Angeles reported that the final holdouts at the encampment — a dog and three people in a tree house — were removed by officers using a Bomb Assault Tactical Control Assessment Tool — basically a souped-up forklift.
The operation might help Los Angeles police shed their bad reputation for abuse.
“On Los Angeles — it is no longer the most violent police force in America,” said attorney Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, a non-profit human rights litigation organization in New York.The National Lawyers Guild, which has been supporting the Occupy protesters, condemned the arrests, peaceful or not.
“The Los Angeles Police Department is deliberately refusing to release anyone arrested in the Occupy raids with a notice to appear,” said Carol Sobel, NLG board member. “The city is holding them in jail on $5,000 bail until they can be arraigned by a judge, which can take up to 48 hours. This punishes people for exercising their First Amendment rights.”
Protesters posting on the Occupy Los Angeles website disagreed about whether the police action was peaceful. Participants were urging protesters to send in raw video footage they collected to document alleged abuses.
There have been no formal complaints about police treatment in the action, said Bruce Borihanh, an LAPD spokesman.
Looking ahead, the city of Los Angeles was dusting off a landscaping plan for the park around city hall, timely grounds work that will effectively prevent people from using it, according to a senior city hall staffer who said was not authorized as a spokesperson.
What’s next for occupiers?
Protesters across the nation were pondering how to proceed with the movement's “occupation” phase ending.
In the past few weeks, police broke up encampments in other cities as Portland, Ore., Oakland, Calif., and New York, where the sit-down protests against social inequality and corporate excesses began in mid-September, The Associated Press reported.
Demonstrators are still at it in places like Boston and Washington, which each had encampments of about 100 tents Wednesday. Dozens of protesters are fighting eviction from a community college campus in Seattle.
Police clear Los Angeles and Philadelphia encampments. NBC's Chris Clackum reports.
The camps may bloom again in the spring, organizers told the AP, and next summer could bring huge demonstrations at the Republican and Democratic presidential nominating conventions, when the whole world is watching. But for now they are promoting dozens of smaller actions, such as picketing the president in New York and staging sit-ins at homes marked for foreclosure.
"We intend to use this for what it is — basically six months to get our feet underneath us, to get strong," said Phil Striegel, a community activist in San Francisco.
Protesters elsewhere also refuse to concede defeat.
In New York City on Wednesday evening, groups of marchers threaded their way through traffic to demonstrate at the Sheraton Hotel, where President Barack Obama was due to speak. They included a group of "peace grannies," people playing drums and other instruments, and others carrying American flags and Occupy signs.
Protesters in Philadelphia planned a march from the city's well-to-do Rittenhouse Square to police headquarters Wednesday afternoon and also called for a "victory march" for Friday or Saturday, the AP reported.
"Occupy Philly is alive and well," said Katonya Mosley, a member of the group's legal collective. She said members have been communicating via list serves, text messages and email and planned to continue meeting in cafes and other spaces. Local groups have also offered to donate space for the protesters to continue meeting, Mosley said.
While one faction received a permit for a scaled-down protest across the street, she said, Occupy Philadelphia as a whole hasn't decided whether to go that route. The city has said any new permit would include a ban on camping.
In St. Louis, protesters whose camp was broken up by police on Nov. 12 planned to march to the Federal Reserve Bank office on Thursday. John Mills, a technical writer, called the dissolution of the camp a minor setback.
"It's dampened some spirits, but I think people are just as passionate, just as excited and just as ready for change as they were before," Mills said.