LA reopens City Hall park trashed by protests

LA reopens City Hall park trashed by protests
A Los Angeles police officer looks through the debris that was left by Occupy Los Angeles supporters after the LAPD removed them from their camp at the Los Angeles City Hall, Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2011, in Los Angeles. AP Photo/Bret Hartman)
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Trampled during weeks of anti-Wall Street protests, City Hall Park reopened Thursday after a $1 million makeover that left fences in place to block campers.

"We're going to ask Angelenos to respect this park, to respect the native plants, to make sure that when you're walking on the park, that you walk softly and enjoy immensely," Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said at a news conference christening the renovation.

Occupy L.A. demonstrators — part of the nationwide social justice protests — were allowed to take over City Hall lawns for nearly two months last fall, creating a tent city that sprawled over the 1.7-acre park. Some demonstrators built a makeshift treehouse, destroyed grass and sprayed graffiti on statues.

Homeless people joined the swelling numbers clustered around City Hall. City trash and toilet services were overwhelmed.

In November, police raided the encampment, arresting nearly 300 people in a mostly peaceful operation. Sanitation workers hauled away 25 tons of debris, including tents, food, shoes and bicycles.

Concrete barriers and chain-link fencing erected to keep campers from returning will remain for at least several more weeks. Gates will be locked after 10:30 p.m. until residents grow accustomed to the new curfew, officials said.

Police also planned to enforce a new ordinance that bans the use of tents in city parks. Signs warned that trespassers could face arrest.

The renovation included repairing a fountain and firefighters memorial, installing new pavement, energy-efficient lighting and irrigation system, and replanting about half the grassy areas with water-stingy succulents, California holly and other native plants.

The cost was covered by various government funds, donations and insurance. Officials said none of the money from the city's general fund, the pot of money that pays for many day-to-day services.

Some Occupy L.A. protesters showed up at City Hall Thursday to demonstrate. They were kept outside the fence during the news conference. None tried to set up a tent on the lawns.

Protesters have continued sporadic protests in other areas of the city, including a recent demonstration at a downtown Art Walk event that ended in a clash with police.