Day 7 Occupy LA reflections

Published online 8 October 2011.

11:53 am I got here early, and this appears to be a mellow day.    I came about 45 minutes before logging on, and served some pea soup.  The food table has enormous stores of food in the back — nuts, fruit, packaged food — not all of it looking all that nutritious, as it doesn’t appear there’s any sort of stove.  Cornel West has arrived, though and so the temperature and pressure have increased.  There is a call of “MIC CHECK” and a chance of “We are the 99%!” among the crowd.  Tavis Smiley is also here.   This is the “try to put a face on poverty” tour.  “Something is wrong when there are 50 milion people living poverty” “try to humanize these numbers.”  11 states and 18 cities.  “Poor people are being rendered invisible.  They don’t matter, they don’t coount.”  “what do the new poor in this country look like?  The new poor are the former middle class.  Mass crowd on Sunday at 5pm for a Town Hall meeting talking about poverty in America.  Next week will be about poverty with him and Cornel West.

Cornel West asks us to give the alternative media a hand.  He asks for moral outrage at poverty.  Abomination that 1% of the population has 42% of the wealth and 83% of the income.  Everyone finds themselves with wages that have flattened out.  THis is not anti AMerica this is anti injustice in America.  We gonna take a stand for something bigger than ourselves.  Weapons of mass destruction that don’t get people to think of what is going on.  Justice is something bigger than each and every one of us.  This is what the O”Jays call the love train.  Democracy is what justice looks like in practice.  If you are a democrat with a small d you believe in the justice that is in your heart.  We are doing it together.

It’s raining in NY, chilly in Chicago, they’re occupying in Australia, in Britain, in Africa…

As brother Howard Zinn used to say, “dissent is the highest form of patriotism.  Stay strong and we will be back here at 5 o’clck.”  We represent the best of what the nation is all about.  The legacy of Martin is here.

(Tavis Smiley steps out and Cornel West continues to speak)

Cornel West says a few more things that I cannot hear and then leaves, hugging members of the audience (including me) as one of his handlers tugs at his suit to get him to his next appintment

Well that was exciting.  That having been said, the only two people I recognize from yesterday here are Kim the librarian and one of the people who helped me as I recharged the computer after nightfall.

12:45 three hooded protesters in orange jmpsuits holding a banner saying “Stop US Wars” came for a photo-op, about the 10th anniversary of war in Afghanistan.

1pm Lunch.  I wait in line.  There is rice, grilled vegetables, and salad.  Also chicken and pizza, but I can’t eat those.  I wander past some marijuana activists with signs.

2:43 The day is developing slowly.  People are having conversations and doing creative work.  There is an ongoing teach-in about capitalism near the north steps; in the alcove north of City Hall there is a meeting about “security concerns” that appears to be about creating a system for solidarity in our relations with the police.  I have been resting and reading.  3pm there should be more committee activity.

Queen Ra wants to speak again, from the sanctuary of one of the tented areas:

“I lost  my lap top in is a black computer bag and its a white sony vaio when you open it up it has a sunset scene- if you find it please return it to lost and found or the welcome table tomorrow at 3pm or i will love to get a donation of a laptop maybe a mini apple would be great – I am on the media team and I need my laptop- I want to also say this- I am not mad or upset about misplacing it- who ever has it will return it or the universe will provide my next one- thanks everyone!  OccupyLA!”

Queen Ra had simply come back to LA from Jamaica (where she plans to live and where living off of the land is much less of a problem) to get her stuff, and found the Occupy movement by chance.  She’s telling the Jamaicans that there really isn’t anything here in LA for them.  Queen Ra was quite nice and allowed me to take her picture in the hemp activists’ area but could not say for sure where-exactly all the committees were: “look out for the people grouping together.”  I did go to the information table where they had set up a list of meetings and times — it was, however, not all reliable information.  I didn’t see an “environment committee,” as was pictured in NYC in this post, but I noticed that there was a set-up at the campsite for recycling and for composting, so someone must have been hard at work on this issue.  There was also what appeared to be a family hard at work supplying the protesters with organic carrot juice.

At the library tent an artist had set up shop.  David Sutherland would like to contribute:

“I hope that through the organized chaos that is the occupation, the essence of this movement is not lost. I hope that through the political propaganda, and river of word vomit spewed by the masses, we can all remember that this is most simply put, an effort to right a wrong. It is the wrong that us the majority of the population, and even a small percentage of the one percent have been manipulated, and stripped of our rights as human beings by a very few and powerful people, in a very cruel way.”

Lisa, LA LiveStream Producer says: “Sometimes birthing is messy, but remember to stay focused on the end result. The baby has been born and we are bonding and celebrating beauty and justice! Thank you for your love and support! It’s a new day!!!”  She requests all Occupy LiveStream admins who would like to be connected to LA, to please email

5pm Everyone is waiting for Cornel West to show up.  A number of announcers take “the stage” on the steps and make announcements.  Committee meetings have changed times.  We need a number of items.  Please don’t do illegal drugs when you’re here, please keep the occupied site clean, introduce yourself to someone next to you.

A rapper ascends to “the stage” and delivers a rap.  He’s pretty good, although I can’t hear all that he’s saying as I move to the media tent to recharge my computer.

5:45 Tavis Smiley is at last speaking.  He and Dr. West were on Keith Olbermann.

“If you are poor, if you are out of a job, this is the place you need to be.  What we are fighting is the contestation of the humanity of too many people.  I celebrate your courage, your conviction, your commitment, your character.  Please welcome our leading intellectual Dr. Cornel West.”

“When we talk about corporate greed we talk not about wall street but about the corporate greed of the prison-industrial complex.  We have a cacophony of voices, like a Duke Ellington orchestra.  Many voices, but he’s on the piano doing his thing.  This is democracy on the ground.  We want democratic accountability for the 1%.  Let’s tell America the truth.  The tradition is to let suffering to speak.  The Tea Party looks like an audience for Lawrence Welk; we look like an audience for Prince.  We are here for the atheists, the agnostics, and even for the Black Baptists like myself.  We cut against the grain.  We are international because corporate greed cuts across national boundaries.  I am just one small voice among all the voices put together.  Thank you so much.”  cheers chant: “we are the 99%”  (This isn’t a good transcription; it’s the best I could do.)  Announcer reads a resolution of the LA city council to support Occupy LA: “Occupy demonstrations are a rapidly growing movement to create a movement to discuss social problems, establish justice, and so on…”  It’s too long to copy here, it’s good stuff tho.

Concluding reflection: Today’s adventure in protest clearly featured Tavis Smiley and Cornel West.  Good folks, to be sure.  Hopefully footage of their meeting with us will help grow the movement.  I left Friday’s protest encampment having felt a good deal of love, and eaten a bit of food, but having been “out of the loop” on the sort of action that would directly grow a movement (outside of the obvious sign-painting and sign-waving activity).  It needs to be said that part of my situation was that, after Thursday’s excitement, I was rather sleep-deprived and so I escaped Los Angeles for the safety of a warm bed before the general assembly had begun.

(brazen protesters occupy the crosswalk while the light is red)

What I saw today appears to be the core of people who hang out when others were busy outside of the encampment.  Clay Claiborne’s diary chronicles the activities of the others over toward the Federal Building.


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