In light of recent violent attacks by authorities against peaceful Occupy Wall Street protestors around the country, one of the nation’s largest cities has perhaps set the stage for appropriate police-protestor interaction. Early this morning, the Los Angeles County Police Department served an eviction notice against Occupy Los Angeles, whose camp is located on the lawn of City Hall. The LAPD announced this weekend that it wanted protestors to clear out of the camp by 12:01 A.M. Monday morning.In response, hundreds of additional people came down to show their support for the movement. Roughly 1,000 protestors converged on the streets around City Hall, and police made it verbally clear that arrests would be made if people continued to block traffic. Rather than violently attacking and arresting the resilient protestors, however, the LAPD instead closed down the impacted streets and extended the arrest deadline to 4:30 A.M. Shortly after 5:00, police ordered demonstrators to disperse. Most complied, and the few who did not were willingly and nonviolently arrested. The city’s mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa, praised both Occupy LA protestors and the LAPD for the peaceful confrontation. While he says he is “empathetic” to the movement’s concerns, he stated that the city still intends to evict the Occupy LA camp. He would not say when, but only that it would happen “when it is safe for the officers.”
Even though it is unfortunate that authorities are attempting to curb the revolutionaries’ First Amendment rights for the sake of mere curfew laws, it is refreshing to finally see an eviction attempt that has not resulted in police brutality. The recent crackdown on Occupy camps around the country has very tragically resulted in the use of unnecessary force by authorities, most notably in Oakland and New York City. When the NYPD announced that it would evict the Occupy Wall Street camp earlier this month, I feared for the worst. While footage was hard to find, I eventually uncovered some shortly after the incident that was completely and utterly disturbing to watch. I sat crying as I watched peaceful protestors being kicked, shoved and trampled by police in riot gear. Tear gas and sound cannons were used against the most civilly disobedient, who sat guarding the camp with legs and arms intertwined. I thought it could not get much worse, until I saw the actions of police against Occupy Oakland protestors at UC Davis. Officers in paramilitary gear converged on students peaceably assembled on the university’s quad, and, completely unprovoked, proceeded to douse them with military grade pepper spray from point blank (A very sad and unbelievable firsthand account of the incident can be read here.).
While I am anxious to see how the next attempt at the eviction of the Occupy Los Angeles camp will go, the initial actions of both the officers and Mayor Villaraigosa are relatively reassuring. In a country that prides itself on both the freedom and the safety of its citizens, the recent incidents that have occurred are both inexcusable and unexplainable. Where disagreements arise, especially on a grand political scale, it is necessary to deal both civilly and safely. This time, at least, both the LAPD and Occupy protestors have managed to do so.