LOS ANGELES -- Vietnam-era veterans were ordered today to end their three-week sit-in and hunger strike at a Veterans Administration hospital and seven protesters, including one woman, were arrested for refusing to leave the lobby.
Some of the veterans said they would move their protest to the gates of the White House, while others said the hunger strike would continue at a church near the hospital.
A VA spokesman said the dozen hunger striking veterans and their supporters were ordered off the grounds of the Wadsworth VA hospital at about 6 a.m. PDT and the demonstrators immediately began taking down their tents on the front lawn.
'We're on our way to Washington,' said one of the veterans as they peacefully left the medical facility.
Seven people conducting a sit-in in the lobby of the medical facility were arrested and carried out of the building when they refused to leave peacefully, officials said.
'It was a symbolic arrest,' a hospital security guard said. 'They were quickly booked for a minor infraction and then they left.'
VA spokesman Frank Terry said each demonstrator was handed a written notice by hospital Director William Anderson ordering them off the grounds of the huge medical center because their presence was 'disruptive' to the patients and was 'adversely effecting care.'
Veterans' spokesman Ron Kovic, a paraplegic ex-Marine, said the demonstrators were regrouping at nearby St. John's Church and the protest would continue until President Reagan meets with their representatives.
'The hunger strike goes on,' Kovic said, 'and the demands are the same.'
Kovic said comedian and political activist Dick Gregory had joined the striking veterans and would participate in a prayer vigil in the church parking lot.
The demonstrators, some in their 19th day of a hunger strike, are protesting inadequate care by the Veterans Administration.
One hunger striker, Richard Ogden, collapsed Monday in the 10th day of his fast and was taken into the hospital on a stretcher. A spokesman said Ogden ended his fast when doctors told him he could suffer irreversible kidney damage.
Veterans' negotiator Mike McCarthy said Monday night the demonstration had served its purpose and the protest should move to the gates of the White House.
'It's very clear, it cannot be addressed here,' he said. 'We have proved the Veterans Administration cannot meet our demands. They do not have the power; they do not have the budget.'
VA officials have given in to several demands by the veterans, but one of the key demands is a face-to-face meeting with President Reagan, a proposal the VA has called 'inappropriate.'
McCarthy, co-director of the Center for Veterans' Rights, said he and several other veterans were planning a massive march 'within a month' on Washington, D.C., to lay their demands at the White House steps.
'When we go to Washington, we are taking the American people with us -- vets, the family and friends of vets,' he said.
He added that any of the Wadsworth protesters who were not peaceful during the eviction 'no longer will be represented or supported by us.'