The lack of violent police action in L.A. and Philadelphia has some protesters bewildered and others skeptical.
Despite Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa’s Monday morning deadline for demonstrators to clear tents and other items from their encampment outside of city hall, protesters refused to leave the site. In defiance of the order, many protesters sat together on the ground, while others climbed into trees as a sign of non-violent protest.
"I'm pretty much speechless," said Clark Davis, media coordinator for Occupy LA, according to the Associated Press.
Ahead of the eviction date, both Los Angeles police and Occupy protesters prepared for a showdown. Many protesters attended sessions on resistance tactics, including how to stay safe in the event that police fire rubber bullets or use pepper spray.
However, none of their training was needed. Reports say that cooperating protesters removed nearly half of the 485 tents planted on the grounds outside city hall, and by Monday afternoon, only four people were arrested for failure to disperse.
If the tone of the planned Occupy L.A. eviction sounds a little different from other Occupy encampment evictions across the country — that’s because it is. Upon making the announcement that the demonstrators would need to move from the site, Villaraigosa issued an almost encouraging statement to the protesters, emboldening them to take their message beyond the tents and makeshift dwellings of the encampment.
"It is time for Occupy L.A. to move from holding a particular patch of park land to spreading the message of economic justice and signing more people up for the push to restore the balance to American society," he said.
And the response from the police department has been equally lukewarm. Despite a clear message from the mayor that the encampment would need to be cleared, a police spokesperson told reporters Monday that the goal of the day was solely to facilitate the flow of downtown traffic.
“As we’ve said before, this isn’t sustainable long term, but for now our focus was just getting people off the street, which we did peacefully,” said Andrew Smith, a spokesperson for the Los Angeles Police Department, reports the New York Times.
Across the country, and in Philadelphia Sunday, protesters faced both a similar mandate to leave their encampment at the city’s Dilworth Plaza and an equally tolerant police force as the deadline came and went.
Ahead of the Sunday, 5 p.m. deadline, hundreds gathered in front of city hall in solidarity with the Occupy protesters who have remained camped out since Oct. 6. Despite preparing for the worst, protesters were allowed to continue their demonstration without police intervention.
But however welcome the tolerance, not everyone thinks it will last.
“I think most people imagine that this is going to happen when we least expect it,” said Khadijah White, a University of Pennsylvania doctoral student who helps facilitate Occupy Philadelphia meetings.
(Photo: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)