- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 30, 2011

LOS ANGELES (AP) — More than 1,400 police officers, some in riot gear, cleared the Occupy Los Angeles camp early Wednesday, driving protesters from a park around City Hall and arresting more than 200 who defied orders to leave. Similar raids in Philadelphia led to 52 arrests, but the scene in both cities was relatively peaceful.

Police in Los Angeles and Philadelphia moved in on Occupy Wall Street encampments under darkness in an effort to clear out some of the longest-lasting protest sites since crackdowns ended similar occupations across the country.

Beanbags fired from shotguns were used to subdue the final three protesters in a makeshift tree house outside Los Angeles City Hall, police Cmdr. Andrew Smith said, describing it as a minor use of force incident. No serious injuries were reported.

Police Chief Charlie Beck praised the officers and the protesters for their restraint and the peaceful way the eviction was carried out.

A crowd gathers during the Occupy L.A. protest in Los Angeles on Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2011. Officers began a raid on the camp early Wednesday, two days after a deadline passed for protesters to clear out. (AP Photo/Dan Steinberg)
A crowd gathers during the Occupy L.A. protest in Los Angeles on ... more >

Officers flooded down the steps of City Hall just after midnight and started dismantling the two-month-old camp two days after a deadline passed for campers to leave the park. Officers in helmets and wielding batons and guns with rubber bullets converged on the park from all directions with military precision and began making arrests after several orders were given to leave.

There were no injuries and no drugs or weapons were found during a search of the emptied camp, which was strewn with trash after the raid. City workers put up concrete barriers to wall off the park while it is restored. As of 5:10 a.m. PST, the park was clear of protesters, said LAPD officer Cleon Joseph.

The raid in Los Angeles came after demonstrators with the movement in Philadelphia marched through the streets after being evicted from their site. Over 40 protesters were arrested after refusing to clear a street several blocks northeast of City Hall, said Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey. They were lined up in cuffs and loaded on to buses by officers. Six others were arrested earlier after remaining on a street that police tried to clear.

“The police officers who were involved in this operation were hand-picked for this assignment,” Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter said. “They’re highly trained and disciplined and showed a tremendous amount of restraint and professionalism in carrying out this morning’s operation.”

Nutter said the eviction had been planned for several weeks and went off without largely without problems.

Ramsey said he would have preferred to evict the protesters without making arrests, but some refused orders to clear the street and had to be taken into custody. Three officers had minor injuries. One protester was injured when a police horse stepped on her foot, Nutter said.

The Philadelphia protesters were ordered to clear their encampment in part because a $50 million renovation project was due to start at the City Hall plaza this fall.

“Dilworth Plaza was designated as a construction site,” Ramsey said. “They had to vacate. They knew that from the very beginning.”

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa raised public safety and health concerns in announcing plans for the eviction last week, while Philadelphia officials said protesters must clear their site to make room for a $50 million renovation project.

Defiant Los Angeles campers who were chanting slogans as the officers surrounded the park, booed when an unlawful assembly was declared, paving the way for officers to begin arresting those who didn’t leave.

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