Protesters from the “Occupy” movement plan to set up their encampment in one of the most illegally occupied cities in Southern California, Van Nuys, to protest “greed” and other inequities.
From the Contra Costa Times:
Even as protesters with Occupy L.A. begin to wear out their welcome at City Hall, organizers are planning another indefinite campout on city property – this time in Van Nuys.
Occupy San Fernando Valley will set up camp at the Van Nuys Civic Center beginning Saturday, after a march and rally during the day to rail against corporate greed.
“We saw a lot of people (who) still do not know about the movement in this area,” said Amber Barrera of North Hollywood, an organizer with Occupy San Fernando Valley.
“We chose the courthouse to show we are demanding justice not from the building, but symbolically for the world and life that have been suffering because of greed.”
Although the city advised the group that they would be breaking the law by staying in the area past 7 p.m., protesters said they are following through with plans to sleep in the plaza at night, which is bordered by several city, federal and state buildings, a library, police station and Van Nuys Superior Court.
“I’m a big believer in freedom of speech and people’s rights to speak out in public spaces,” said Councilman Tony Cardenas, who represents the area. “At the same time, since 9-11, I think that that has complicated things when it comes to things like people staying overnight in direct vicinity of what’s potentially a sensitive area.”
City officials and General Services Police, which patrols city property, have not yet decided whether they will enforce
Advertisement the 7p.m. rule.
If police force the protesters out of the plaza at night, they will move to the sidewalks, Barrera said. If they are told they cannot block the sidewalks, protesters will walk around the area at night until morning, when they will move back into the plaza, Barrera said.
Protesters have been meeting between 5:30 and 8:30p.m. this week outside the courthouse as they finalize plans for the occupation, but police so far have not forced them to leave.
“They haven’t been disruptive or anything,” said LAPD Sgt. Darryle Lewis.
When asked if the police will allow the protesters to sleep in the area overnight, he said: “The mall closes at 7 p.m. and we’re going to hold them to the law.”
Police in downtown Los Angeles have made an exception so far for protesters who have erected nearly 500 tents on the lawns of City Hall, where sleeping is prohibited between 10:30 p.m. and 6 a.m.
For the first few days of the month-old movement, police moved protesters to the sidewalk during those hours, but gave up after a few days as city officials voiced their support of the occupation.
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who was supportive of the movement during its early stages and went so far as to hand out ponchos to protesters, said Wednesday that the group cannot stay at City Hall indefinitely, citing damage to the lawns and trees and concerns from health inspectors about the camp.
Villaraigosa has instructed various city departments to come up with a plan to find an alternative location for the protests to continue. No timetable was available yet.
Occupy L.A. protesters said they have no plans to leave City Hall. But they have been working to ease concerns about the cleanliness of the camp.
Health officials, who conduct daily inspections of Los Angeles’ camp, have directed organizers to dispose of wastewater from portable showers into drains rather than the ground, and to increase the number of portable toilets, have them emptied twice a day and provide water jugs for hand-washing.
The camp shut down its food tent, where volunteers made everything from sandwiches to a tabouli-type salad in blenders, after inspectors noted that it was not in compliance with food handling laws.
Close-quarters living can facilitate the spread of germs through airborne, foodborne or person-to-person contact.
“Any time you have a large number of people in an event like this, there’s potential for illness to spread rapidly,” said Angelo Bellomo, director of environmental health for Los Angeles County.
“Conditions can change within an hour or two.”
Meanwhile, most vendors at Thursday’s Farmers Market at Van Nuys Civic Center expressed support for the movement and saw the planned encampment as a boon for business.
“It’ll draw a crowd,” said J.C. Rodriguez, who was selling incense and scented oils. “And at that point, it’s a numbers game. It would always increase your odds for sales.”
Still, while most were sympathetic to the cause, some saw security as an issue.
“We don’t need another 9-11,” said Rick Hernandez, a kettlecorn vendor.
“It’s a prime spot for terrorism. With hundreds of people camped out here, we don’t know who’s coming and going.”
The Associated Press contributed to this story.