LOS ANGELES – For now, Wall Street protesters camped out on the Los Angeles City Hall lawn still have their tent city after defying a deadline to pack up and clear out. “Still occupied,” read the sign of a protester up in a tree.
Hours after emerging from a possible confrontation with police largely unscathed Monday, demonstrators turned to the federal courts to keep officers away.
They are arguing that the City Council had passed a resolution in support of Occupy Los Angeles and that the city’s mayor and police did not have the authority to evict them.
The chances that protesters will get an injunction appear slim, constitutional experts say.
Until there is a decision, the tent city’s inhabitants are left to wonder if and when police will push them out — and if there will be the kind of violence that has engulfed evictions in other cities when they do.
City officials said they will only move in on the camp when conditions are safest not just for protesters and officers but also the roughly 100 homeless people who had joined the encampment.
“There is no concrete deadline,” LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said after hundreds of officers withdrew without moving in on the nearly 2-month-old camp.
The effort should come “with as little drama as possible,” Beck told reporters.
Police and protesters have clashed elsewhere in recent weeks, most notably in Oakland, Calif., as officers cleared away camps that officials say have grown more dangerous for public health and safety.
Nine people were arrested in Maine after protesters at an encampment took down their tents and packed their camping gear after being told to get a permit or move their shelters.
In Los Angeles, protesters had prepared for police action since city leaders announced last week that the camp would be cleared. Campers had packed up about half of the nearly 500 tents.
Some protesters carried gas masks and one person had even fashioned one out of duct tape and a plastic bottle.
Some activists had built a treehouse out of wooden pallets in a clump of palm trees to make it more difficult to be arrested, while others just sat in a circle with their tents in the plaza.
Protesters chanted “we won, we won” as police left after only four arrests during a largely peaceful, six-hour demonstration against the eviction. The arrests were on charges of failure to disperse.
Instead of moving in to clear the camp, as had been expected, police concentrated on clearing several hundred protesters who had spilled into the street so morning rush-hour traffic would not be affected.
Hours later, several demonstrators asked a federal judge for an injunction against the city.
The civil rights complaint contends that Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa usurped the City Council’s authority when he set a deadline of 12:01 a.m. Monday for the tent-dwellers to disband.