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Occupy LA protesters defied the deadline the city had set them to clear out their camp early Monday morning, with thousands of people converging on the now-illegal encampment.
After almost two months of occupation, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa had told demonstrators to clear out their encampment by 12:01 AM Monday.
Protesters and their supporters flooded into the site and surrounding area Sunday in readiness. Police estimated there were at least 2,000 people at the camp by Sunday evening, Reuters said.
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Shortly after midnight, the crowd swarmed onto downtown streets, blocking traffic and prompting police in riot gear to corral them back toward City Hall. From the LA Times:
After the midnight deadline passed for protesters to vacate the park at City Hall where they have been camping for seven weeks, hundreds of protesters and their supporters converged on the streets surrounding the park chanting, "Whose streets? Our streets!"
Protesters retreated to the park where they formed a human chain around City Hall, Reuters reported.
No arrests or violence have so far been reported, the Associated Press said Monday morning.
Both protesters and police appeared keen to keep things peaceful. Police commander Andrew Smith told the AP:
"We're going to do this as gently as we possibly can. Our goal is not to have anybody arrested. Our goal is not to have to use force."
Meanwhile demonstrators were in festive mood, according to the AP. "The best way to keep a non-violent movement non-violent is to throw a party," said protester Brian Masterson.
In a statement issued shortly before Monday's deadline, Mayor Villaraigosa said protesters would be allowed "ample time to remove their belongings peacefully and without disruption."
Police chief Charlie Beck told the LA Times officers were expecting to have to make arrests, but insisted they would not be "the first ones to apply force."
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