It was a long night at the OccupyLA encampment outside of City Hall. The celebratory mood during the day had turned to tension at night, as the 12:01am Monday deadline loomed for what Los Angeles Mayor Anthony Villaraigosa had announced on Friday as the "date certain" when peaceful demonstrators would no longer be able to peacefully demonstrate in the overnight encampment on the lawn at City Hall.
57 days of free speech and peaceable assembly were fine, apparently, but 58 days would simply be a bridge too far. Or so Villaraigosa had made it sound during his presser that night, with LAPD Chief Charlie Beck by his side. They each took the opportunity then to praise the "Occupy LA movement for its peaceful efforts to change the national political and economic conversation."
But, as LAPD cops and the Mayor had been telling (often skeptical) demonstrators for the last several days: "We are not Oakland. We are not New York City." They had promised that there would not be a repeat of the horrific scenes which had gone viral on YouTube in other cities, where peaceful demonstrators were shot, beaten, "nudged," pepper sprayed, threatened and tear gassed during violent confrontations created by the police themselves, as they attempted to evict OWS encampments elsewhere.
One long-time demonstrator told us hours prior to the expected shut down last night, the LAPD had taken great pains to work with the L.A. protesters from the beginning of their encampment nearly two months ago. There has been a cooperative spirit with them from the beginning, she explained, noting that it seemed the LAPD was "still haunted" by the 2007 May Day Riots (which The BRAD BLOG covered live as it happened, and again when they finally reached a $13 million settlement in 2009 with the victims of their outrageous, inappropriate and unnecessary violence which included rubber bullet attacks on peaceful demonstrators and attacks against journalists attempting to cover it).
Last night's eviction never came, as protesters, media --- both corporate and citizen --- all took to the streets (and skies) around City Hall all night long. There was little show of force by the police, as they were mostly missing altogether through the night, with a few hundred, at best, appearing in the very early hours with helmets (but not full riot gear as seen elsewhere) largely to patrol intersections in an attempt to keep folks out of the street. Ironically, at about 3:30am, they spread the word that protesters should go back to City Hall Park, that they'd only be arrested if they were in the streets. There were just three such arrests total last night and the camp is still standing as of this morning.
The mixed messages from officials led one citizen journalist --- an OccupySF live video streamer who had come down from the Bay Area to cover the deadline here in L.A. --- to mention wryly as his camera rolled in the early hours: "The LAPD seem to want something from us, but it's unclear what their demands are"...