Occupy LA 10/13/11 observations

Published online 14 October 2011.

1:15 I arrived here at noon, and it took me a good deal of time to figure out what was going on.  The encampment that was formerly only at the north side of the block (Temple, Spring, 1st, and Main Streets) is now on both sides of City Hall, is now on both sides of the block.  On the south side of the block, Occupy LA shares space today with a farmer’s market with all sorts of things for sale.  The media tent is now on the south side, and next to the media tent is an alternative energy tent with two huge solar panels generating electricity in the hot sun.

The Indigenous Committee is speaking at this time on the south steps.  They have a live mic and a speaker system and a number of elders and have erected a tipi on the steps.  There is a “People’s Collective University” just below them, which gives lessons on the economy.  I wander to the north side, where I start a number of conversations, first with some people in the refurbished library on the north side,

and then with Lewis.

Lewis would like to speak:

“Humanity is ultimately good. And there is a faction of the human race that wants the human race to ultimate decline by 90%. Therefore the question is, can it be accomplished. The answer is ultimately a quagmire.”

Lewis is an African-American fellow who claims that his father was once with the Freemasons until they “went after him.”

2pm I was swept up in a march to the Superior Court in which the marchers chanted “Justice Not Payoffs.”  Here is a quandary of protest communication — how do you communicate a specific protest against a court of law, or for that matter a bank or other institution, with mere slogans chanted during a march?  We can’t all be chanting in great detail about specific reforms to the system.  Can you imagine the resultant cacophony?  “Right now,’ says the woman with the megaphone, “the judges of LA county are being served papers because they’ve benefited from banks and a victory for getting bank money out of the judicial system.”  “Do the right thing now!” the crowd cheers.  At least someone was there to communicate the meaning of the protest.  Cory is a young guy with a nice-looking hat.  Cory suggests: “I think a better thing to do would be to go inside the court and protest right in front of the judges.”  Cory tells me a story of when there was a B of A protest two hours ago and they went into the building and the guards hassled them and everyone else in the building was laughing… “deep down everyone enjoys human beings being together…” I can’t help but wonder, however, that the message of this particular protest was lost and that the people who should have heard it, didn’t.

3pm there will be an emergency meeting to discuss possible action in light of Bloomberg’s attempt to clear Zuccotti Park of OWS protesters.  After five minutes the young woman with a red t-shirt leading the charge suggested that we split up “into two groups” to discuss proposals – of course not two but many groups formed.

A guy with glasses and a beard reads a manifesto.  A group forms around this guy.  The woman in the red shirt with the megaphone explains that we need to formulate a proposal and that another action (against the gas company) has been scheduled for this time. “ Saturday is a global day of action, there will be an occupation of Times Square… I’m going to open the stack for suggestions…”

A woman with a blue bandana suggests that we connect via Skype and offer legal advice.

Another woman with glasses suggests that we interrupt the Michael Jackson physician trials to voice our displeasure about Bloomberg.

A man with beard stubble suggests that we be clear on who we are when we try to grab media attention.

The woman with the megaphone and the red shirt says: “Time is of the essence if we want to do it at 5pm  I would like to take a temperature…”

One young woman voices: “I support the hunger strike…”

An African-American woman voices a proposal I don’t understand about God and drugs and “if we could find our way back to the center”

The gist of the meeting as I understood it was that there were two types of proposals — 1) media solidarity proposals, and 2) proposals in support of the hunger strike.  I have no idea how Occupy LA can accomplish anything in solidarity toward Occupy Wall Street.

I try to find the march to the gas company and wind up with a crew of three or four young Chicano men who were under the impression that the marchers were trying to get participants to participate.  We walk around the block and discover that everyone has already left and that we were misdirected.  In the meantime, I strike up a discussion with Patricia.

Patricia would like to say:

“I am a substitute teacher with the Los Angeles Unified School District. We get paid the 5th day of each month…once a month. Teachers also contribute to their retirement with CalStrs.  I have discovered that Calstrs has been compromised, and that our retirement funds are not being put into our retirement accounts.  LAUSD also signed an illegal MOU with our UTLA teacher’s union.  This illegal MOU took the seniority of the substitute teachers, and gave their seniority to newly hired teachers with less than a year of teaching experience.  This was done by then UTLA union president A.J. Duffy, and the LAUSD.  This was illegal, and nothing has been done about it. LAUSD has also stolen money from me in other instances.”

Patricia is proud of her business sense, having had a business in Chicago for a twelve-year stretch, and claims that money from her paycheck is being stolen from her.

I go back to the south side to use the WiFi and then back to the north side at 4:01. Somehow I manage to hook up with a march of maybe three dozen people which winds around a couple of blocks,

finally arriving across the street from an outdoor location where interviews about the trial of Michael Jackson’s physician are being held.  The protesters wave signs and chant “New York has the right to occupy!”  I duck out of the protest to observe, maybe at 5:15 or so, people waiting in line for pizza. There was some to-do about whether the Health Department would allow food to be given out at the encampment.

Meanwhile, on the north steps of City Hall, there is a demonstration in support of the hunger strikers at Pelican Bay State Penitentiary, in the northwest corner of the state of California.

Lewis, who is right next to me as I observe the food line, tells me “those people are criminals — I don’t support that at all.”

I can see that the encampment has increased in size, but I’m not sure about how long this is going to last.

At around 7pm I blunder into the Finance Committee.  They are discussing the possibility of forming a 501 (c) 4 corporation to cope with finances, or elsethe finances will gointo limbo.

at around 7:50 I wander into the GA meeting.  None of my photos for this meeting are any good.  The crowd has formed, but the meeting has not begun.  There is a short discussion of hand signals.  A woman from the Food Committee tells the group that the Food Table was threatened with $5000 fines for each participant and that the Food Committee wanted to have a meeting at 10:30pm that evening to discuss what to do.  THe possibilities she suggested were 1) making the Food Table a Snack Table, 2) only allowing outside food that was certified, 3) certifying the food handlers.

There was an announcement of Occupy Orange County at the Irvine Financial District.

A young woman discussed at length the existence of the kids’ tent.

There was an announcement of the Meditation and Yoga tent.

Carlos organized a tent for victimized homeowners.

An announcement of the movement expansion on Saturday was made.

A union announcer was there: there will be a protest at the Bel-Air Hotel tomorrow at 4:30pm there will be UCLA parking and they will shuttle you to the hotel. There will be busses at 3:30pm here at city hall.

Suzanner announces an exhibit about the Yemen revolution.

Neighborhood councils outreach formed a new affinity group — anti-imperialism, 5:30 tomorrow.

Participants of the Fun Commitee speek.

A plea for signatures for Leonard Peltier is made.

Demands committee tells us as to the demands box and names several committees with which they communicate.  Meetings at 5 pm.
eremy with the zero waste committee speaks — things are dire.

Prisoner solidarity speaker is up.  The CDC made concessions but reneged on them, and so the hunger strike has widened, and they want to organize a solidarity march next Thursday.

Actions committee spokesperson praises three successful marches.

City of LA will be turning sprinklers on tonight at 1030 so move tents to the sidewalk.

A woman named Araceli wants to show a movie about Cuba.

A long haired fellow stands up to say that the police are planning mass arrests if we do not leave the grass by 1030

Proposal for a moment of silence Saturday.  This is getting tedious.  It is 9pm.  I need to leave.

Concluding reflections:

1) The challenge to the occupation from the Health Department seems quite daunting.  They can’t be turning away food donations when there are starving protesters.  Are picnics illegal because their participants are not certified by the Health Department?  At any rate, the paranoia they spread is bad news.  I have no idea what they’ll decide at 10:30 when everyone will be adapting to sprinklermania.  When I was a go-to guy for my Food Not Bombs local, we didn’t worry about the Health Department’s selective enforcement because we were always careful to steer clear of the authority figures.  The Occupy LA people don’t that luxury, at least not with their visible food tent.

2) A consideration for general consumption: when you’re speaking at a General Assembly, and the stack is long, please have some consideration of your audience’s limited attention span!  Keep it short and sweet.

3) Occupy Together protests are really neat because they can serve as a staging ground for practically any good cause one dares to name, and any sort of teach-in one deems necessary.  May a thousand 501 (c) 4 organizations multiply.

4) Marches all suggest a quandary of communication — how do marchers get their message across without being misunderstood?  Something to work on.

5) Occupy LA is dependent upon considerable donation money, and considerable financial effort.  ”  Generous outsiders are nice, but no doubt their ability to contribute will be limited.  What it needs to do is to move into food activism, and community gardens, under the heading of “sustainability” and “local self-reliance.”  I can think of no better staging ground for revolt than a community garden.


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