Occupy LA reflections 10/22/11

Published online 22 October 2011.

3pm I am sitting at the Green Tent typing out this blog.  Lots of people milling around, people at the open mic at the south side singing and playing instruments. We took a group of people across the street to the demolished foundation of the old city hall.  It’s spooky over there.  There are some old fields which could be transformed into community gardens; there are some old parking structures which are like catacombs.  The bottom layer is entirely flooded.  Two enthusiastic women, Jennifer and Taylor, want to get going on the community garden project.  There was a serious discussion about cleaning up the place today when the temperature cools a bit.  They want to start now.

Jennifer

Taylor

OK, let me tell you some things about the old city hall grounds.  They are right across the street from City Hall.  There was obviously the foundation of a demolished building there, and some land that could be converted into community gardens.

There is also an old parking structure full of spooky, unlit rooms.  The very bottom of the parking structure is completely flooded.

We are going to build a community garden there, but first we spent some time picking up trash on the grounds.  That was what most of Saturday was like for me..

I know, there was a protest in Pershing Square and a short, ineffective thing for “End the Fed” on the Occupy LA grounds.  I didn’t participate in those.  I did, however, catch a shot of a really popular class at the People’s Collective University:

At the end of the day I was, once again, the note-taker for the Finance Committee.  There will be a proposal to change the name of the Finance Committee to the Resources Committee, because since the Finance Committee takes plenty of in-kind donations, it isn’t strictly about finance.

The main course for today’s meeting was a discussion of two alternatives: 1) the 501 (c) 4 which was discussed as an organizational possibility for Occupy LA finances in previous meetings, and 2) the idea that we would tell the world that we want to be a genuine co-operative, and operate upon a cash system to take cash, and in-kind donations, organize a process to develop stronger ties with the local community, and run our funds through a safe deposit box.  When we were split up into groups, we were asked this question: “what organizational structure would facilitate the longevity of the movement?”

I was somewhat surprised to see the “regulars” in the Finance Committee backtracking on the 501 (c) 4 proposal.  I imagine they ran into quite a bit of resistance, as well as a good deal of pressure from interest groups trying to co-opt the Occupy LA movement.  We would, at any rate, need to create some sort of political effort to get the CA legislature to change the law so that organizations such as Occupy LA could have a genuinely co-operative structure rather than having to organize as 501 (c) 3 or 501 (c) 4 corporations, with boards of directors and so on.

I did not stay for the general assembly meeting.  Taylor and Jennifer were at the Finance Committee meeting and explained their idea for a community garden over on the site across the street, which they called “Project Eden.”

Concluding reflections: Having Occupy LA branch out into community gardens is really an exciting development.  Community gardens are really, really good places to organize movements.  This is a great opportunity for Occupy LA to leave its mark upon Los Angeles.  On the other hand, I am now not quite sure what the Finance Committee really wants to do.  Do they want to take gobs of donations and use them for good purposes, are they afraid of being co-opted by the financiers, or do they want to secede from the money system altogether?  Time will tell.

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