In a closed press conference - on Black Friday - at the very end of the day (read: serious news dump) - Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa - a mayor who has presided over a May Day Melee, massive foreclosures and the arguably the worst homeless problem in the country declared Occupy LA a success for changing the national dialog.
He said in the press conference, "Occupy LA has brought needed attention to the growing disparities in our country and I look forward to its ongoing efforts to build an economy that works for everyone."
And then proceeded to tell the protesters that it's time for them to leave. More specifically, Monday morning at 12:01 am is time for them to leave. The park will be closed.
Here's the thing: this is civil disobedience. This is occupying a public space - breaking rules that don't hurt anyone. They're doing it to bring to attention things which we would otherwise ignore. It's supposed to make our elected officials uncomfortable. It's not a comforting message: they're in office and things are bad.
But, the hubris of a politician thinking he can placate civil disobedience by saying it has changed the national dialog is stunning. Really Villaraigosa? I hate to say this but at least we know where Michael Bloomberg is coming from. This "I agree with you but you have to go" seems slimier. Especially since Villaraigosa made no offer of policy changes that would show he, in fact, has heard any message from the protest. (They have made a list of grievances and, yes, they are mostly local issues...ya know, the jurisdiction of a mayor.)
Speaking of slime, in the mayor's statement on Facebook he clarifies that a "free speech area" - the west steps of City Hall will remain open. As if free speech is something that can be designated. Not how that works. Besides it's the freedom of peacefully assembly that's being pushed to its limits to make a point, not speech.
Occupy LA's response:
We reject outright the City’s attempts to lure us out of City Hall and into negotiations by offering us nebulous, non-transparent and unconfirmed offers which fail to even begin to address our local grievances. We will continue to occupy this space, in solidarity with our global movement, until the forces of the few are forced to capitulate to the power of the people.
The Occupiers are planning to defend the park. Some are planning to be arrested. I'm told even if they lose the park, they will still be Occupying. Shepard Fairey tweeted this last night:
Full statement from the mayor after the break:
MAYOR VILLARAIGOSA ANNOUNCES TEMPORARY CLOSURE OF CITY HALL PARK
by Antonio Villaraigosa on Friday, November 25, 2011 at 5:05pm
November 25, 2011
Free Speech Area Will Remain Open on City Hall Steps during Park Closure
LOS ANGELES – Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced at a Friday press conference that City Hall Park will close at 12:01 AM on Monday, November 28, 2011, because the City of Los Angeles cannot maintain the public safety of a long-term encampment. During the period when City Hall Park is closed, a Free Speech area on the Spring Street City Hall steps will remain open during regular park hours.
Mayor Villaraigosa, who was joined at the press conference by LAPD Chief Charlie Beck, recognized the Occupy LA movement for its peaceful efforts to change the national political and economic conversation and outlined a series of steps the City is taking to help demonstrators comply with the park closure.
“Occupy LA has brought needed attention to the growing disparities in our country and I look forward to its ongoing efforts to build an economy that works for everyone,” said Mayor Villaraigosa. “As we continue to respect the exercise of everyone’s First Amendment rights in our civic center and throughout Los Angeles, City Hall Park is temporarily closing out of concern for the public safety implications of a long-term encampment.”
Since the encampment began in City Hall Park on October 1, 2011, Mayor Villaraigosa has said that a long-term encampment is not sustainable.
After consultation with Chief of Police Charlie Beck about the public safety implications of a long-term encampment, Mayor Villaraigosa directed the Department of Recreation and Parks to close City Hall Park at 12:01 AM on Monday, November 28, 2011. The park will be closed and reopened to public access during regular park hours once it is repaired.
Since the start of the Occupy LA movement, the City of Los Angeles has worked closely with the demonstrators to ensure that the participants’ First Amendment rights of free expressions are safeguarded while also maintaining adequate health and safety standards.
The City assigned law enforcement personnel from both LAPD and General Services police to protect, patrol, and monitor the situation. The encampment in City Hall Park has forced the City to divert law enforcement personnel from other essential public safety services. While the Occupy LA movement has been peaceful, the Mayor determined that a long-term overnight encampment cannot be sustained from the standpoint of public safety.
Once the park officially closes at 12:01 AM on Monday, November 28, 2011, the City will continue to work humanely with Occupy LA and others in the park to help them comply with the park closure.
Officers with the General Services Police Department, the city’s enforcement agency in city parks, will walk through the encampment handing out bilingual flyers and give verbal notice of the closure. Los Angeles County social workers will also visit the encampment, making people aware of the social services that are available.
“As the Chief of Police, I have been extremely proud of how our Department and our City has interacted with the Occupy LA participants over the past seven weeks,” said Chief Beck. “We will continue to work with Occupy LA in order to help them comply with the park closure.”
To facilitate the removal of personal property from City Hall Park, nearby curbside parking will be made available for loading and unloading.
The City of Los Angeles announced on Wednesday that 50 shelter beds will be made available on Monday for homeless members of the Occupy LA encampment. On December 1, 2011, the City’s Winter shelter program will begin. The program is administered by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority and makes 870 beds within the City of Los Angeles available for homeless individuals on a first come, first served basis.