LOS ANGELES – Hundreds of Occupy Los Angeles protesters showed no sign they planned to move Sunday ahead of a city-imposed midnight deadline to abandon their encampment, saying they would instead hold an “eviction block party.”
Although city officials have told demonstrators they must leave the weeks-old protest site and take their nearly 500 tents with them by 12:01 a.m. today, just a handful were seen packing up Sunday.
Instead, some passed out fliers containing the city seal and the words: “By order of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, this notice terminates your tenancy and requires you to attend the Occupy L.A. Eviction Block Party.”
“The best way to keep a nonviolent movement nonviolent is to throw a party, and keep it festive and atmospheric,” Brian Masterson said as he helped a friend break down her tent. “And I’m going to be doing as much as I can to stop violence.”
He said he had turned his own tent into a “nonviolent booby trap” by filling it with sandbags to make it tough to tear down.
“We can’t beat the LAPD, but we can make it difficult for them to do their job, and have fun while we’re doing it,” Masterson said.
Villaraigosa issued a statement a few hours before the deadline Sunday night, outlining the city’s plan and his hopes for a “spirit of cooperation.”
He said that even after the park’s official closure police “will allow campers ample time to remove their belongings peacefully and without disruption.”
Villaraigosa said police and social workers will walk through the park handing out information on the closure and services available.
The mayor did not say what tactics authorities would use for those who refuse to leave – or when they will begin using them.
The atmosphere was already festive Sunday afternoon. A punk-pop band played protest songs on one of the lawns. The protest’s artists were out in great numbers showing their work, and twice the usual number of news trucks surrounded the tent city.
Some campers packed up their tents and belongings Sunday to avoid police trouble, but said they intended to return without them in support of their fellow protesters.
“I would prefer not to take the tent down,” said Tiffany Wallace as she packed up her campsite. “But we need to be strategic for this movement to last. This is not just for the occupation of this particular location. This is for mobilizing working-class people nationally and internationally.”
City Councilman Bill Rosendahl appeared on the City Hall lawn to issue a late plea for protesters to leave.
Occupy organizers said thanks, but no thanks.
“Until the grievances of the 99 percent are addressed to end corporate control of the system, the government and the media, Occupy L.A. will be here exercising our First Amendment rights,” protester Julie Levine said.