Hundreds Of Police Take Over Occupy L.A. Camp

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Police in Los Angeles moved in overnight at the camp of Occupy protesters. The raid began two days after protesters were told to leave. Police took similar action in Philadelphia.

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RENEE MONTAGNE: This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And I'm Steve Inskeep. Police in two of the nation's largest cities moved in overnight to occupy the camps of Occupy protesters. In Philadelphia, police began dismantling the camp about 1:20 this morning. Protesters responded by marching through the streets.

MONTAGNE: Just after 2:00 in the morning, hundreds of police deployed from inside City Hall and took control of a camp nearby.

Frank Stoltze of our member station KPCC, has been watching the action. Good morning, Frank.

FRANK STOLTZE, BYLINE: Good morning.

MONTAGNE: Give us a sense of how the police conducted this operation.

STOLTZE: It was a massive police operation. I don't think we've had this kind of concentration of officers in the city in a long, long time - upwards of a thousand, probably. Riot police moved in on the South Lawn of City Hall on this encampment, making dozens of arrests. And a largely peaceful operation. Of course there was a day when the LAPD was sharply criticized for its brutality in Los Angeles. This is the department that has acted very differently, very differently from other cities. It was a largely quiet operation.

MONTAGNE: Very different - just briefly, when you say very different, meaning these protesters were warned days in advance. They knew something was coming. It wasn't a sort of out of the blue disruption.

STOLTZE: That's true. And all along police here have had a lot of contact with protesters and have gotten a lot of praise from protesters in how they've treated them.

MONTAGNE: Well, so the protesters were saying that this was going to be non-violent when it happened. How has it been on their part?

STOLTZE: That's very interesting. A few times some of the protesters would taunt police and almost try to provoke them. And others in the Occupy movement would shout them down and say no, we want this to be a peaceful protest. So they were quite well-disciplined.

MONTAGNE: You know, one thing about Los Angeles, politicians here, including the mayor, have voiced their support for the protesters. Why now? Why clear them out now?

STOLTZE: Well, they've been here two months. It was the longest Occupy protest. And you're right. The city council passed a resolution supporting them. The mayor essentially blessed the protest. But in the end they said that they could not hold the park forever. They had some concerns about public safety - these hundreds of tents and what was inside them. There was some drug use going on.

MONTAGNE: And drug dealing. I mean there were some stories of, you know, homeless encampments that had encroached on the encampment.

STOLTZE: Yes. And so they were concerned about public safety and they wanted others to resume being able to use the park themselves - people who were not protesters.

MONTAGNE: Yeah. And of course this is City Hall, so it was a very symbolic area. So the protesters must have seen this coming, knowing what had happened, not just because they were warned by L.A., but what's happened in New York and other cities. What do they plan to do next?

STOLTZE: Well, this is the question for lots of Occupy movements around the country. Here in Los Angeles, they actually plan to block the Port of Los Angeles in an action in a couple of weeks. They've been holding meetings in various communities, trying to stir up activism for economic justice in South L.A., for example. The question is: Will they be able to turn what's been a pretty successful protest outside City Hall into something larger?

MONTAGNE: Frank, thanks very much.

STOLTZE: Thank you.

MONTAGNE: Frank Stoltze of member KPCC, who is talking to us from the encampment outside City Hall, the Occupy encampment, which is right as we speak being dismantled by the L.A. Police.

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