LA police arrest 73 Occupy sympathizers in rallies

By Christina Hoag

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, Nov. 17 2011 8:10 p.m. MST

D.J. App, of Berkeley, sweeps the Occupy Cal campsite in Sproul Plaza on the campus of University of California at Berkeley, Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2011, in Berkeley, Calif. Students held the campsite despite threats from the university's police that the lodging was illegal.

Beck Diefenbach, Associated Press

LOS ANGELES — Police arrested more than 70 people Thursday during rallies involving hundreds of anti-Wall Street demonstrators in downtown Los Angeles, hours after authorities cleared an encampment of Occupy protesters at the University of California, Berkeley.

The law enforcement actions marked the latest offensive against activists concerned about the nation's growing economic inequality.

An encampment in Oakland was shut down earlier this week and 33 people were arrested.

The first Los Angeles arrests came during a morning rush-hour march by about 400 people that was organized by labor unions and joined by members of the Occupy LA movement.

It culminated when a small group of people linked arms around three tents in the middle of busy Figueroa Street as others chanted "this is what democracy looks like" and other slogans from the sidewalk.

The first person taken into custody was 81-year-old Bertha Jordan.

"Young people got to see somebody stand up for justice," she said before being led away.

A total of 23 people were arrested for unlawful assembly in the highly choreographed act of civil disobedience. Many wore union T-shirts with the message "Arrest Wall Street bankers." They were being held on $500 bail each, said police Commander Andrew Smith.

Two other protesters who were not union-affiliated were arrested earlier during the demonstration.

Around noon, several hundred activists marched for a second time.

The action resulted in a tense standoff between marchers and riot-clad police when activists would not heed orders to stay on the sidewalk.

Three people were arrested before marchers agreed to peacefully resume their march to the Bank of America Plaza, where protesters pitched 20 tents on a grassy area as helmeted officers guarded the bank skyscraper and formed lines in a stalemate that continued for almost four hours.

Protesters contended the park area was not private property and the public was guaranteed around-the-clock access. Police finally moved in to arrest 47 people who locked arms in a circle and refused to leave the property as a crowd heckled police and chanted slogans.

Smith said the activists were charged with trespassing.

Occupy LA activists said they are getting more aggressive in their actions to force Wall Street banks to take notice. "This is the beginning," said organizer Mario Jefferson. "We are increasing the pressure on corporations and so-called corporate citizens."

In Berkeley, about 150 police officers and deputies in riot gear moved in on the encampment around 3:30 a.m. without warning, removing about 20 tents and arresting two protesters.

A bulldozer smashed a wooden teepee-like structure, and a large sign that read "Open University, All are Welcome" was taken down.

Campus police had monitored the camp, awaiting the best time to move in, said Dan Mogulof, a university spokesman.

"The decision was made to avoid confrontation," he said. "To do it safely was paramount for us."

No clashes were reported between protesters and police, unlike Nov. 9, when police jabbed students with batons and arrested about three dozen people as the university sought to uphold its ban on camping.

On Thursday, campers were told to leave immediately or face arrest, said student Navid Shaghaghi, 26, a protest organizer.

Those arrested were Alex Kim, 24, an English major, and Mike Porter, 24, who identified himself as an Occupy Oakland member. They were taken into custody on suspicion of illegal lodging and failure to disperse, Mogulof said.

Shaghaghi and others remained in the plaza to plan an evening rally.

"We are trying to gather as much support as possible in order to figure out how we're going to respond to this travesty," he said.

The encampment went up Tuesday during a daylong protest against big banks and education cuts that culminated in some 4,000 people rallying at a speech delivered by former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich.

Across the bay, Occupy San Francisco protesters scrambled to clean up their camp after Mayor Ed Lee warned that police would move in if sanitation problems continued and the camp spread to other areas. Protesters said the city gave them a 4 p.m. deadline to reduce the number of tents from 200 to 100 and remove trash and other health hazards.

Protesters said they did not want to remove any tents.

"We will not be silent," said Katt Hoban. "We will stay here all night and right through the night to maintain our right to assembly."

Associated Press writers Robert Jablon in Los Angeles, Terry Collins in Berkeley and Beth Duff-Brown in San Francisco contributed to this report.

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