Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa held a press conference last Thursday to inaugurate the re-opening of City Hall Park after seven and a half months of repairs to damages caused by Occupy LA protestors, some of whom also attended the re-opening event.
Speakers in attendance included Councilmembers José Huizar and Jan Perry among others. They, along with Commission President of Recreations and Parks, Barry Sanders, commented on the multiple green amenities at the park, ranging from decomposed granite pathways to water-saving irrigation and reduced turf.
“This has to be a gem, a gem for the people of our city. It has to be emblematic of Los Angeles,” Sanders said.
He also said it is the responsibility of visitors and residents of the city to “take [the park] and take care of it.”
Along with the re-opening, the public was advised on the particulars of an ordinance regulating use of the park area. The intent was to clarify what items are allowed inside the park to ensure its protection and maintenance.
According to Senior Press Secretary Peter Sanders, tents, unless through a permit for an event, are prohibited and general services police have full discretion as to how to enforce this rule.
Occupy Wall Street activists camping out in the park for nearly two months caused damages to the lawn, sprinkler, system, and other amenities. Initially supporting the protestors’ efforts by inviting them to stay as long as they needed, Villaraigosa then ordered police to evict them after receiving reports of crime, drug use, and inappropriate presence of children.
During the re-opening, protestors gathered around the chain-link fence encircling the park with signs that read “welcome back to solidarity park.” They commented on the delays of the park’s official re-opening and on the use of the chain-link barrier.
“This is what the freest country on the planet looks like now, chain-link, armed police officers, for a public park opening with balloons,” Occupy LA Protestor James Hill told City News Service, from behind the chain-link fence. “I can’t wait to get in there, because I’m going to sit on a bench. I’m going
to talk to my fellow citizens. I’m going to smile at children, and I’m going to exercise my First Amendment rights.”
Villaraisgosa addressed the protestors’ complaintss by asking people “to come to City Hall, to enjoy this park, to protest when you must, but also to respect that this is the public’s and the people’s house and the people’s park.”
Downtown resident, Virginia Elwood Acres, told City News Service that she initially supported the protestor’s efforts, but her support swayed when they “started behaving like thugs.”
“This is my park, too. I live downtown, so it’s just as much my park as it is their park,” Acres said.
To further protect the park from damage, for the next several weeks the chain-link fence will stay up and its hours of operation will be from 5 a.m.-10:30 p.m, Sanders said.
Information from City News Service was used in the story.