Some 500 helmeted Los Angeles Police Department officers burst out of City Hall doors and raced into the Occupy L.A. encampment early Wednesday, while others began arresting a few of the protesters on the south lawn.
Another 1,200 officers remain stationed around the Occupy L.A. encampment but police have moved their skirmish lines in closer to the encampment in advance of clearing out protesters.
As of midnight, officers had arrayed themselves along several downtown streets around the demonstration and by 12:15 had begun to move into the crowd.
Police said an area of unlawful assembly would extend two blocks in each direction from City Hall. Protesters would be given an opportunity to walk away after that occurs.
Thirty Metro buses took the officers from Dodger Stadium to downtown.
Los Angeles Police Department Lt. Andy Neiman said police were also prepared to remove protesters who had climbed into trees.
Neiman seemed confident that the operation would not take long and predicted that on Wednesday it would be "business as usual" downtown.
The city declared last week that residing in the encampment would be unlawful starting 12:01 a.m. Monday, but the widely expected police raid that would have resulted in the removal of the tents and their occupants never occurred, with police Chief Charlie Beck saying Monday that a raid could come later in the week.
Officers will clear the camp when they can "do it effectively and efficiently and with minimal force," he told the Los Angeles Times, asserting that the encampment already had shrunk by 150 tents over recent days and that time was on the department's side.
Attorneys for Occupy L.A. protesters filed court papers Monday asking a federal judge to prevent police from clearing the City Hall camp. The protesters contend the city of Los Angeles, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Beck violated their civil rights by ordering the encampment dismantled.
According to the protesters' attorneys, the south lawn of City Hall is a traditional public forum for First Amendment activity.
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