Occupy Wall Street was shut down last night and Occupy encampments across the country have had bad encounters with police. Hundreds of arrests have been made. Occupiers have been injured and this week, in addition to the shut down of the encampment at Zuccotti Park and Oakland, other Occupy encampments are being cleared out across the country. But so far, Occupy LA appears to be firmly established on the grounds of the Los Angeles City Hall – for now.
Early on, the City Council of Los Angeles issued a resolution supporting the Occupiers. Several city council members, including City Council President Eric Garcetti, visited the encampment. Although there have been rumors of an ejectment of the Occupiers, so far it hasn’t happened. In the eyes of many, this is a good thing.
For two or three days a week, Dick and I have gone downtown to Occupy LA and witnessed — first hand — the interaction between the Occupiers and the Los Angeles Police Department. The LAPD officers should be commended. I know of a single incident where a member of the press was threatened by a police officer for allegedly engaging in behavior that he – the police officer – felt warranted arrest as the journalist videotaped a protest march. But aside from that, most of the Occupiers have had good things to say about their interactions with LAPD during their stay.
In just a few short weeks, a rhythm and structure appears to be emerging from what initially looked like complete and utter chaos. The Occupy LA village is evolving into a very workable community.
It’s been reported that there are somewhere between 450 and 500 tents on the two acres of grass surrounding City Hall. I can’t confirm that but I will say that it’s hard to find a square foot of unpaved land on the two acre lot that isn’t being used by the Occupiers. Having said that, the residents have established ground rules for keeping the encampment orderly, clean and, for the most part, peaceful. The paved spaces and walkways winding throughout the grassy encampment remain tent-free — used by the “Occupiers”, activists, and visitors to navigate through the maze of tents as they congregate for a slew of committee meetings and rejoin for the evening general assembly.
Like other Occupy encampments across the country, Occupy LA has designated outdoor spaces and tents for media, a library, first-aid station, a “People’s University”, meal preparation and distribution, and portapotties for the hundreds who are now living in this public space.
As the Movement continues to gain momentum, it’s looking more and more like this is going to be more than just a flash in the pan — that it might have some staying power. From my personal observation, it is certainly more orderly and safe than the picture painted by some in the media — but at the same time, there are occasional outbursts at general assembly that are less than civil. However, having spent more than 20 years in board rooms and at conferences of a couple of the world’s most respected organizations — I haven’t heard any language at an Occupy G.A. that I didn’t hear in those boardrooms.
During the past two weeks we’ve spent time with veteran anti-war activist Ron Kovic. Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich came down and delivered a rousing speech of encouragement. Tavis Smiley and Cornel West were interviewed by Keith Olbermann from the Occupy LA location and then went on to conduct a rally.
The City of Los Angeles is not responding to the Occupy Movement in the same way New York, Oakland, or other cities have chosen to respond and they are the wiser for it. There is no way to forecast what the future holds. Heck, the situation could change in the time it takes me to post this article. But for now, we have a village at our city hall that is providing a space for the 99% to be heard. As a member of the 99% and as an Angeleno, I am happy we are different.