More than 1,000 anti-Wall Street protesters defied a deadline to leave a park near Los Angeles city hall on Monday, as police vowed to evict them "as gently as possible" to clear out a two-month old camp.
The midnight deadline passed without police charging the encampment, but by the middle of the night scores of baton-wielding officers had surrounded the park, preventing the protesters from moving into adjacent streets.
The face-off remained mostly peaceful and good humored, although it was unclear how long officers would hold back from moving in on the activists.
"We're going to do this as gently as possible," Police Commander Andrew Smith told The Los Angeles Times, adding: "Our goal is to not arrest anybody."
Hours before the closure cutoff, LA's mayor had said campers would be given "ample time" to leave and appealed to them to go peacefully, as the city seeks to avoid clashes with riot police seen elsewhere in recent weeks.
While the park was ordered closed from midnight 1330 IST, police were to "allow campers ample time to remove their belongings peacefully and without disruption," Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said in a statement Sunday evening.
"I am proud of the fact that this has been a peaceful, non-violent protest... because we have done things differently in Los Angeles. I trust that we can manage the closure of City Hall Park in the same spirit of cooperation."
The Occupy Los Angeles movement was nearing a critical point in time after Villaraigosa on Friday ordered the protesters to leave the spot where they have been rallying since the start of October, citing public safety concerns.
The group called a rally in front of city hall late Sunday -- and by early Monday there were more than 1,000 protestors -- organizers said 3,000 -- and some 500 tents, according to an AFP correspondent.
A group of 25 protesters from the Occupy San Diego camp came up to support the LA movement. "We stand in solidarity with OLA. We came to make a statement because we need change," Claudia Acevedo, 44, told AFP.
Asked if she was ready to be arrested, she said it was "part of the civic protest movement.... We know it can happen and we have to make change peacefully because anyone can lose their home here, the economy is very fragile."
Nicole Lee, a volunteer worker in her sixties, said: "This is a breath of fresh air. Finally people are waking up.... I was here in the 60s and I feel this might be a new beginning."