Saturday 10/15 at Occupy LA

Published online 16 October 2011.

Here’s where I arrived.  I caught the tail end of a massive march which proceeded to and from Pershing Square.  People flooded in like a tsunami into the encampment.  I saw some old friends there.

1:44pm It’s pretty extravagant here right now.  There are two microphones, two audiences.  The audience on the south side is distracted; the tipi is still up, though.  They’ve blocked off Spring Street because there was a march and rally scheduled for this morning — I missed all but the tail end, and caught some pictures of the march as it ended.  There is also a drum circle.

A speaker is up on the north podium.  “You know what creates jobs in the world today?  Problems.”

I caught this woman’s sign in passing:

2:11pm The north podium has started to feature music.  Loud and raucous.

2:25 I talked to a woman who is interested in community gardens.  She leaves to look at the media tent.

3:11 there are still gobs of people here.  The southern portion of the west side of the encampment is like a tourist exhibit, in which people walk by, take pictures, sign petitions, and chat with people who have exhibits on display.  The podium on Spring Street has lost a lot of its crowd.  The drum circle is getting noisy.

3:22 I speak briefly with a hula-hoop dancer wearing a purple bra top and flared pants.  She says that sleeping is not really too bad here, that she just falls asleep because she’s moving all the time, that the worst part of sleeping here is the honking horns, and that she’s been working five days a week but will be here more often in the future.

3:35 The crowd surrounding the podium at the north end has diminished substantially but the south end now supports a rockin’ blues band.

4pm or so: I sat down on the grass on the south side with three women about my age.  They are sporting this very attractive sign.

Linda would like to speak:

“Hello….Today my hope is that the people of America and in other countries have finally woken up to the fact that we are being lied to by the powers that be.  We are NOT in a financial crisis. The richest 1% is holding onto 99% of the money that would feed, house and clothe this country.  Austerity measures are NOT needed. What we need is fair taxation, universal health care which is not a socialist ideal, and government officials that actually represent their constiuents.  WAKE UP AMERICA!  You are being lied to.  Fight back. STAND NOW with the 99%  One love, one world one peace!”

Sylvie had this to say:

“Hello everyone, I’m here today to support the movement because this is a very necessary step towards getting our democracy back.  I’ve participated in my fair share of protests over the years and this movement is one of the most important of protests that I’ve participated in because this is a turning point that we cannot back down from for many reasons.   We need to create the change that in needed to make this world a better place to live.  The corruption is so vast and so beyond most of us that it’s so hard to know where to begin, but it takes a step at a time.  We need to show in numbers what our power truly is in comparison to the 1% percent.  And if need be we may need to start creating our own society within this movement to make the point that none of our current candidates or representatives are doing their job.  They continue to support the corporations and banks that have run this world into the ground and we need to change the course for them because they won’t clearly do it themselves.  This is something that needs to stay and grow and develop for the next couple years until we see the type of world we want to live in.  Come join the movement and have your voice heard.”

5pm I am helping a woman use Facebook on my laptop.  We then venture to the north end where they are serving cheese pizza.  If it continues like this I will never camp out here — the dietary options are inadequate.  We go to a Chinese restaurant and eat vegetables.  When I get back it is nearly time for the Finance Committee meeting, although only three people are there because everyone else in the committee is busy doing something else.

At around sunset I catch a picture of the kid’s tent — nobody is there for some reason.

The finance committee meeting discusses the wording they are going to use at this evening’s General Assembly meeting, in which the plan for creation of a 501 (c) 4 is to be presented.  The general assembly begins with a series of announcements.  Objectives and demands committee wants to forward demands as regards ending corporate personhood, ending wars, economic justice, justice for people of color, and a second Bill of Rights.  Someone wants to start a “money out of politics” group.  There were other announcements; these were the ones which stood out (as I see it).

Finally the finance committee gets to make the 501 (c) 4 proposal.  They plan to go to Sacramento and have the papers filed in a hurry, so that they can have a structure.  They need to file for nonprofit status before they can open a bank account.  The change, claim the “nerds” from Finance, is essential to continuing to the movement, and to the movement’s financial transparency.  The main hitch is that the 501 (c) 4 will not be allowed to endorse candidates.  Filing the paperwork ASAP will cost $1,255.

There is a very long question and answer session around this.  We can’t have a co-op because liability issues would extend to all participants — if someone wanted to sue all of the protesters, for instance, each and every one of us.  We can get around the “corporate” aspects of the 501 (c) 4 charter by putting it in the bylaws that all decisions must be approved at the General Assembly.  At some point, one of the Finance Committee members explains: “We have to build the new world on the back of the old one.  We cannot financially stay here unless we do this.”  At any rate, the question asking goes on until 9pm, and then we get to hear objections.  The argument that we would be hypocritical if we were to form a corporation while opposing corporations is put forth.  By 9:30 there are still a number of blocks to the proposal, and so the meeting proceeds to “open mic.”  At this point I need to leave.

Concluding reflections: Occupy LA needs some sort of financial structure as it is currently constituted.  People eat, poop, and pee, and so there is a food tent and there are porta-potties.  Even just basic amenities run the encampment hundreds of dollars in expenses.  If they don’t like it the general assembly participants can always dissolve the 501 (c) 4.  It would be pretty awkward if the person whose credit card currently covers the cost of the porta-potties decided that enough was enough.  The 501 (c) 4 structure outlined by the Finance Committee is probably the easiest way through for now, though it remains to be seen whether or not they will achieve a consensus.

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