In a Sunday evening phone conversation, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa elaborated on his gamble on the Los Angeles police being able to evict hundreds of protesters from Occupy LA with little violence or damage to the City’s reputation.
An assembly estimated at about 1,000 at 7:30pm tonight is likely to double by midnight, the announced time for the City’s eviction order. The sheer size of the growd may deter a midnight sweep, if one is planned. Villaraigosa and the LAPD badly want to avoid a repeat of the excessive force employed at MacArthur Park against a May 2007 immigrant rights rally. Facing a huge cross-section of nonviolent demonstrators tonight would run that risk.
The Mayor wanted to emphasize that he was not on the conference phone call several weeks ago when 18 big-city mayors apparently discussed strategies for evicting Occupy Wall Street protesters.
The sole reason he ordered the eviction, Villaraigosa said, was the inevitability that an incident – a rape, an act of violence, an overdose – sooner or later would occur on his watch and that of the LAPD.
The eviction plan will be carried out on three paths:
- Those who want to engage in nonviolent civil disobedience will be arrested without violence;
- Those defined as homeless or mentally-ill will be directed to social service options;
- Those who may seek a violent confrontation will be arrested, but in a manner that avoids police brutality.
Sounds magical? Given the historic role of the LAPD and the police crackdowns inflicted in other US cities, there is plenty of reason for skepticism. But Villaraigosa and the LAPD feel a strong pressure to invent a different approach. Villaraigosa wants to identify himself with the goal of reforming Wall Street, while not ordering a classic crackdown. There is one precedent for this approach, the Mexican handling of the 2003 anti-WTO protests in Cancun.