Occupy LA eviction deadline passes, and protesters file suit to stay put

Hours after a midnight deadline passed without police moving in to evict Occupy Los Angeles protesters from their encampment outside City Hall, the movement is seeking a court order to prevent the eviction from being carried out.

Mario Brito, a member of Occupy LA’s City Hall liason team, said the suit was filed Monday morning in federal court.

The suit, which names the city, the mayor, and the chief of police as defendants, accuses them of violating the protesters’ civil rights by reversing policy and demanding that the 500 or so tents on the City Hall lawn, considered the largest remaining of the Occupy movement’s encampments in the US, be dismantled.

The legal battle was joined after the midnight deadline for police eviction came and went without the sort of clashes that have marked other law enforcement actions at Occupy sites around the nation.

As police focused their efforts early Monday largely on clearing intersections for weekday commuter traffic, the mood among the protesters mixed defiance and resignation that the encampment’s time was coming to a close.

A handful of arrests were made, mostly for interference with traffic regulations.

As Monday morning dawned, the estimated 3,000 protesters remained upbeat, with little if any response from police.

“Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Los Angeles,” a call-and-response chant wafted over the crowd, adding, “Occupy everything and never give it back.”

Police were on high alert and deployed largely unobtrusively along side streets on Segway scooters and on foot – and without heavy riot gear.

Helicopters hovered over head throughout the early morning hours, Los Angeles police officers in regular patrol uniforms strolled among the activists.

“We are looking for peaceful solutions,” said LAPD commander Andrew Smith, as he walked the area, adding, “so far, so good as far as nonviolence – nobody is looking for anything else than that.”

Los Angeles City Council President Eric Garcetti early Monday reiterated the city’s position that while there is a right to speak out, “camping cannot continue indefinitely.”

Signs of preparations for clashes and closure appeared along the crowded sidewalks and limited grassy areas. A bail bondsman eagerly presses his card into the hands of passersby, announcing his services in a loud voice. “Bail bonds here, be ready,” intoned Fidel Ramirez, whose card states, “any time, any jail.”

Will Paio Mares, a self-described artist-in-residence who had an extensive showing of his paintings propped up around city tree trunks, was hastily packing up his belongings, muttering that he had no time to talk as he bustled past.

“I’m in a hurry,” he says, answering the question of whether it is time to leave, with “of course.”

Companion Kevin Gambit, a fellow Occupy-er from San Diego said many protesters are getting ready to go, “so they don’t have the holiday rush of losing all their belongings.”

Saying it is simply time to go from the encampments, he adds that his activist stance is intact.

“The world is ours to occupy,” he says. “I’m always occupying, just as you are.”

Others appear committed to this downtown patch of grass and concrete, however. Anastasia, a fellow activist who came from nearby Irvine, and who declined to provide her last name, says the commitment to the encampment is firm.

“There are many people coming in unity,” she says, pointing to groups coming down from San Francisco as well as other areas to show support. “These are our brothers and sisters,” she says, as she sits on the ground, arms linked to her companions. “We are prepared for the worst, but we expect an easy and peaceful resolution.”

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