(LOS ANGELES) -- As a chain link fence and concrete barricades surrounded the City Hall Park that Occupy Los Angeles protesters called home before an overnight police raid removed them, one of the movement’s lead organizers vowed the fight would continue.
Just after midnight Wednesday, 1,400 police officers raided the park encampment and arrested 292 demonstrators who refused to follow an order to disperse.
“Occupying a patch of land adjacent to City Hall was not sustainable over time because of public health reasons,” Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa said during a news conference Wednesday. “Anybody who went through that park knows it was not an exaggeration. It was not hyperbole. It was and is a public health hazard. That’s why you saw police officers in hazmat suits.”
Villaraigosa said the protesters had to be removed as well “to make sure that everyone has access to City Hall steps.” On Wednesday, he and Police Chief Charlie Beck thanked both law enforcement and the demonstrators for a relatively peaceful day.
Villaraigosa said that sanitation workers had been working throughout the night in the park, which was littered by trash and flattened tents, and smelled of urine.
“Replacing the lawn will cost us a lot of money,” he told reporters Wednesday. He said the cost of the raid and the park’s repair “may go beyond a million [dollars], certainly.”
In a statement earlier in the day, Villaraigosa said that the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority had previously walked through the park to assess the needs of those who had nowhere to go. He added that during the park’s closure, a First Amendment area would remain open on the Spring Street City Hall steps.
Mario Brito, a lead organizer of Occupy Los Angeles, said during a news conference Wednesday that activists would start occupying the neighborhoods where bank executives have homes. He also said demonstrators were calling for a moratorium on home foreclosures.
Villaraigosa said Wednesday that he expected more Occupy protests.
“If their movement is to move beyond this stage, it will have to be peaceful,” he said. “Working together, we can respect the right of people to speak out against the government, against injustices.”
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