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Occupy LA eviction put on hold, but for how long?

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The Los Angeles encampment is among the oldest and largest on the West Coast aligned with a 2-month-old national Occupy Wall Street movement protesting economic inequality, high unemployment and excesses of the U.S. financial system.

Staking its place since Oct. 1 on the grounds surrounding City Hall, the compound has grown to roughly 400 tents and 700 to 800 people, organizers and municipal officials said. At least a third are believed to be homeless.

By Sunday night the size of the crowd outside City Hall swelled further as supporters from organized labor, clergy, civil rights and other groups streamed into the area, answering a call for an eleventh-hour show of support for the campers.

Police estimated the overall number of protesters, some wearing gas masks, had grown to at least 2,000.

Police, who had kept out of sight during the day, began to make their presence known as the eviction deadline came and went, and the mood of the protesters, which had been calm and festive, turned more boisterous and rowdy.

Shortly after midnight, throngs of demonstrators began blocking traffic along a street running between City Hall and the Los Angeles Police Department headquarters across the street, finally moving to take over an entire intersection.

One group of protesters left the park and marched about a block away, where they were met by a phalanx of officers wearing helmets, carrying night sticks and what appeared to be tear gas rifles.

Some in the crowd advanced to the line of officers, shouting: ``We are peaceful!'' But police held their positions.

Smith's police truck was briefly surrounded by protesters, prompting more riot police to converge on the area.

At one point, a separate group of about 50 protesters gathered around a tent in the center of the park holding candles and linking arms. They had scrawled telephone numbers of lawyers on their arms anticipating arrest.

HUMAN CHAIN

Dozens of others formed a human chain around the perimeter of City Hall, holding hands as they stood on the sidewalk.

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