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Police Clear 'Occupy' Camps in LA, Philadelphia

Police arrest an Occupy Los Angeles protester at the encampment at city hall November 30, 2011.
Police arrest an Occupy Los Angeles protester at the encampment at city hall November 30, 2011.

Los Angeles officials are praising the police operation that cleared hundreds of protesters from Los Angeles City Hall early Wednesday, without violence. Most demonstrators agreed to leave the site peacefully, but nearly 300 who refused were arrested. Even with the breakup of the last major camp of the Occupy movement, demonstrators are promising to continue their protests.

Crews were cleaning up trash and removing tents, clothing and sleeping bags from the lawns of City Hall as Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa praised police who evicted residents of the makeshift camp. He said law enforcement officers showed restraint in their actions, shortly after midnight. “I hope that the L.A. activists will do the same. The movement’s message of restoring balance to American society is too important to be lost amid clashes and conflict," he said.

Villaraigosa called the action of more than 1,400 officers the Los Angeles police department’s "finest moment." “The activists’ fundamental rights were respected. The result was a peaceful and orderly conclusion to the encampment at City Hall," he said.

The mayor and other city officials have said they sympathize with the demonstrators’ broad complaint that the top one percent of the U.S. population controls much of the country’s wealth. But they say that after two months of occupation, the lawns of city hall needed to be cleared and that the protesters were given ample warning.

Although most people who watched the eviction said that it went smoothly, some protesters say they were thrown to the ground and treated roughly.

In Philadelphia early Wednesday, at least 50 people were also arrested as police removed an encampment outside City Hall. Similar operations have taken place in other U.S. cities during the past month, sometimes with violent confrontations. On November 18, a protest on the campus of the University of California, Davis resulted in protesters being doused with pepper spray.

Demonstrators say their protests will continue. The Occupy movement has attracted supporters of many causes, from workers’ rights to immigration reform.

Protester Mario Brito says the group's removal from city hall is not the end. “The eviction, it was only of tents, not of our ideas and definitely not of our movement," he said.

Smaller Occupy protests continue in other American cities, including San Francisco.

Related report by Elizabeth Lee: