One day; two major ‘Occupy’ camps shut down (with related video)
Wednesday became a day of reckoning for Occupy protesters who had been camped for nearly two months near city halls in both Los Angeles and Philadelphia. With cold weather setting in and encampments being shut down by authorities throughout the country, the Occupy movement may be focusing on other tactics in the near future, posing new challenges for cities.
In Los Angeles, it took nearly 1,400 police officers to remove the protesters that had set up camp in City Hall Park for 58 days. Almost 300 occupiers were arrested during the early morning eviction. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa praised the police efforts as being peaceful and said the city was making 50 shelter beds available for people from the encampment.
“We did not rush,” he said in a statement. “We respected the dignity of the protesters and gave them time to gather their belongings and arrange their departure.” Despite the forewarning, many of the protesters had to be removed, leaving behind an array of belongings for the city to clean up. City crews estimated that they would end up taking nearly 30 tons of trash to landfills, including empty tents and mattresses. Villaraigosa said he will be tallying how much the camp has cost the city, speculating that the amount could exceed $1 million, according to an LA Times article. Repairs, such as re-sodding the lawn, repairing the irrigation system and installing new landscape, could cost up to $400,000.
On the same day, Philadelphia police ousted protesters that had been living at Dilworth Plaza for nearly two months, arresting 52 people. According to a release by Mayor Michael Nutter, it took 29 sanitation workers a total of 108 hours to clear 27 tons of trash from the site. The city maintained an increased police force near the plaza during the course of the protests, costing the city an estimated $641,000 in overtime expenses, according to a Philadelphia Inquirer article. Nutter deemed it was time for the occupiers to go as the city is about to start a $50 million renovation project at the plaza.
Throughout the month, encampments have been broken up across the country, including the one established at Zuccotti Park in New York. With winter setting in, Occupy efforts are likely to shift from large, longer-term gatherings to other actions that could pose a different set of challenges for cities. Occupy Our Homes, for instance, has declared Dec. 6 a national day of action to fight against the housing crisis, including foreclosures. According to a Salon article, protesters in 20 cities are expected to participate in the day, which could likely include interrupting foreclosure auctions and taking over foreclosed, vacant properties. Already, 100 activists filled and disrupted a Bank of America branch lobby in San Francisco, leading to 95 arrests.