|Protesters have been camped for eight weeks outside City hall in Los Angeles [Reuters]|
Police in riot gear have raided ‘Occupy Wall Street’ camps in Los Angeles, arresting at least 200 people outside City Hall.
Busloads of officers closed in on the eight-week-old camp aftet midnight, declaring the hundreds of protesters congregated on the lawn, pavements and streets around City Hall as an “unlawful assembly” and ordering them to disperse or face arrest.
The encampment, which officials had left alone for weeks even as other cities moved in to clear out similar compounds, was among the largest on the West Coast.
“It’s easy to talk the talk, but you gotta walk the walk”
Opamago Cascini – protester
The demonstration is aligned with the two-month-old national Occupy Wall Street movement protesting against economic inequality and excesses of the US financial system.
Except for some minor initial scuffles, the crowd remained boisterous but peaceful.
At least 20 protesters quit the area immediately, carrying tents and other belongings out of the camp, followed by a number of others escorted out by police.
At least a dozen people were seen handcuffed within 90 minutes after police moved in.
City officials had hoped to keep the timing of the widely expected eviction operation under wraps.
But live local television footage revealed large numbers of police, patrol cars, buses and other vehicles meeting at Dodger Stadium, a few miles away, ahead of the raid.
The pictures prompted supporters to stream into the area in a show of solidarity with the activists.
Protesters sat in a circle on the lawn outside City Hall, their arms interlinked, saying they would rather be arrested than leave.
“It’s easy to talk the talk, but you gotta walk the walk,” Opamago Cascini was quoted as saying by the AP news agency.
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa earlier said he hoped to avoid confrontations between police and protesters that have marred evictions in other cities.
Villaraigosa issued the eviction order, saying the camp was unsustainable because public health and safety could not be maintained.
In Philadelphia, about 100 Occupy protesters peacefully vacated their camp early on Wednesday after police moved in and warned activists they faced arrest unless they left on their own, police said.
City officials earlier said the camp must be cleared to make room for a renovation project.