Today was my first day at Occupy LA. It's taken a long time to get their, since I finally had a day off that was a real day off from my neo- burger flip level jack-of-every trade from housekeeper to web application designer job.
First the LA SKyline, then the Actual Camp - and toward the end Breaking News.
Downtown Murals for the Philharmonic
The Liberty/Library/Independence Doomsday Tower
The Boneventure Hotel - featured in both "In the Line of Fire" and "True Lies" - also where I went to my highschool girlfriends prom.
The first thing I saw as I crossed the street from the Criminal Courts Building where the O.J. Trial, the Dr. Murray Trial and all of the Lindsey Lohan Court appearances have been, was the view of the Art of Occupy LA.
Making their own Custom T-Shirts with Stencils and Krylon. Simple, Fast, Effective.
The Occupy LA Library
View of City Hall from the North
Note: The camp on the North Side only had a couple people milling around whom I talked to for a bit. Most of the people were on the South Side, but there were more people present than what appears in some of these shots since I didn't wish to take pictures of anyone without their permission. Simple manners and all that.
As usual there are plenty of Police Cars around City Hall, but all the Cops I saw were hanging out relaxing and laughing. Nobody in Riot Gear. Nobody with any Pepper Spray at the ready.
Giant Flag Mosiac of Signs on South Lawn.
COEXIST Flag flying over everything.
The ParK is a Zero Waste Zone. The Occupiers Pick up after themselves, and they Recycle.
Gotta Admit, the Clone Wars Tent was killing me.
Shrine to the American Native Americans, who've been Occupied since 1652!
i Don't know if this was already there, but Occupy LA has more than just tents -they have a structure erected in the center of the Southern City of the Park - and they've covered it with Murals - including this one which doesn't indicate a lot of love for the Federal Reserve.
The Occupy L.A. Interfaith Shrine. Which features a "Welcome" Mat at its center, probably much like the Interfaith Shrine that is planned for Park 51 - except for being a Tent that is.
Daily Event Schedule.
After looking around for awhile at about 3pm, they was a call for a volunteers to man the clean up crew. Occupy L.A. Picks up it's own trash. While I was there, I found the Park to be perfectly clean, nearly spotless.
Clean as a whistle.
Occupiers waiting in line for lunch.
My favorite sign.
There are families living at #OLA, and they have a Playground/Daycare area for them.
Across the Street from the Occupy Camp to the South West is the main office of the L. A. Times. Much more on this later.
Directly to the South, believe it or not, is the New Headquarters of the L.A.P.D. You can actually see the reflection of City Hall in it's windows.
Which means that when the Top Cops look out of their office - this is what they see.
Across the street to the East you have the Downtown Workers waiting for the bus, and starring bemusedly over at the Occupy Camp.
Which from where they were looked like this.
Daily Schedule for #OLA.
The LA Sister Cities Guide, which is again across the street to the East and sometimes used as a meeting point for OLA members. The building in the Background is the L.A. CalTrans Offices.
After walking around and taking pics I eventually began to speak to people including this gentleman and his partner who were looking for signatures for registered voters to place a iniatative on the ballot to end the Death Penalty in California.
I signed it.
This is Sgt Seligman (Ret.) who I ran into just after he was interview by a reporter from KPCC one of the local NPR stations. He was there with his family, and his "Restore Glass-Steagall" sign was directly on point. He told me that most of the Police, about 90% by his estimation, were with the Occupiers. In fact, during their March earlier this week he said many of the cops were giving them a "Thumbs Up" as they held their batons. Technically the park doesn't "Security", but the Sgt. and others regularly act as "Peacekeepers" and had confirmed with local PD that they do have the authority to conduct a citizen's arrest if a situation warrants it.
And then coming from a completely different perspective than the Sgt, you had this gentleman with the Pancho and Bic Lighter Bandoleer who breathlessly told me that Abraham Lincoln was a Saint for his "40 Acres and Mule" idea. If only every U.S. Citizen had an acre of their own land, they could sustain and support themselves without any outside aid. Yeah, um, ok. I haven't done that math on 350 Million into the acreage of the U.S. lately, but there is the issue of private property rights, national preserves and the fact that not every inch of U.S. Soil is suitable for farming. And anyway "40 Acres and a Mule" wasn't Lincoln's Idea, it came from General Sherman - and was eventually repealed by Andrew Jackson after Lincoln's assassination. Thank you Wiki for Android. Details... details.
One great thing about Occupy. They don't judge. They don't discriminate. They accept everyone for who that are, and everything that they are.
Mats set up for afternoon Yoga Class. They invited me at attend, but I'm horrifically out of shape... probably would still be hurting tomorrow if I'd taken them up on it.
Class in Session.
Greed is a Disease, and I think it's catching...
The OLA Food Tent. Today there were serving two kinds of soup and rice. I had the potato and mushroom soup. They told me that they get recipes and support for a 5-Star Macro-Biotic Chef. He had been afraid to let his participation be known, but eventually said "Fuck It" if he winds up losing his job over it. His name is "Scott".
The Soup Rocked.
The Power Supply Tent is SOLAR, providing about 3000 watts for Laptop and Cellphone recharging.
Occupy LA has their own Porta-Potties. No depending on the bathrooms of local businesses.
Push Pin Map of all the Different Occupy Locations Around the World.
I've been saying this for years, even wrote and recorded a song for my debut album about it called "Wake Up".
"It's called the American Dream because you have to be asleep to believe it"
Beware: Wall Street Crossing
Uh oh, Anarchist Sighting, kinda...
As the sun went down things got interesting. As I note in the title - this was the day that the Occupy LA received a written offer from the City for them to potentially relocate to a new permanent building of 10,000 sq ft in the nearby area. Apparently with "City Square" which a few indicated was across the street to the west between the Court House and the Times building, but I'm not exactly positive about that as I write this.
This pic was taken at the start of a 5:00 pm meeting of various key members of OLA to announce what the city had said and also to strategize on their response.
Unfortunately the strategizing didn't take place in this meeting because of the presence of an L.A. Times Reporter, Kate Linthicum, who preferred not to leave and wouldn't allow their internal conversation to be remain "Off the Record".
Members of OLA were skittish and distrustful of the Times as they felt they'd been trashed by the paper previously. There was a about a 40 min discussion to determine whether the meeting should be moved to private location so that things could be openly share, there was a counter argument that the media was essentially part of the 1% anyone and who cares what they think anyway?
I talked to Kate for a time and she seemed essentially frustrated in her efforts to report on OLA.
"I don't really know who to talk to..."
She really didn't want to become part of the story herself understandably, but since OLA spent about 45 mins just talking about how to react to her presence, the fact is she was. IMO She seemed openly and clearly sympathetic to the movement and to the occupiers - or at least she said she was. They still didn't trust her.
Ultimately consensus was reached and the meeting was broken up into two portions, one where the offer from the Police and Mayor was detailed for everyone and then individual sessions where options were discussed privately before the presentation to the full general assembly.
What I learned from simply watching and listening is that like many communities and many families, there's a whole lot of back story and internal infighting going on. There's even a bit a pent up anger. Some people didn't necessarily trust other people. Some literally hated some others. Some felt that standing on principle, and sticking to their guns was more important than anything.
They've all become family, and families fight. Loudly and passionately.
What I guess Kate and maybe many of the media fail to understand is that this movement isn't about any one member, it's about a process, which involves more than a little arguing and disagreement. This movement does not have a unified front, not yet. Many people have their own views and their own priorities and agendas - what the process does is allow those differing views to be aired, distilled and focused until that which all members essentially agree with. The entire point of consensus decision making is that it protects the absolute right of the minority, even a minority of one, to object and have their issues addressed. It's not the bully process of "I've got more people on my side so I get my way and you don't" that majority rule generates. If the Times bothered to invest some actually time and get to see and fully understand the scope, breath and diversity of the movement -they wouldn't find reporting on them so difficult. The process Occupy has chosen to adopt may be the best possible at helping air grievances and resolve issues to the best satisfaction of all involved. To me, That is the truly unique part of this movement and this story.
And I said, since the Times offices are literally across the street there really isn't much excuse not to know what really going on IMO. I mean, Jesus, they can look out the window and report what OLA is doing.
What's so difficult about walking out your front door and listening?
Unless of course, actually telling the truth about OLA isn't on the Times' agenda as many of OLA seemed to fear. Then again, reading Kate's report here - I think she got it pretty much on the nose.
In then end, it was a contentious meeting but ultimately productive as OLA member Scott, with the aid of National Lawyers Guild attorney Jim Lafferty laid out the cities proposal.
Essentially, the city wanted their lawn back. "Get Off My Lawn, ya Damn kids!". But unlike Oakland, Portland, New York and UC Davis they really didn't want to wind up as yet another town in the increasing list of new poster examples for police violence against non-violent docile protestors. Maybe that Rampart Scandal and the subsequent Federal Consent Decree that LAPD have been under until recently has something to do with it, or maybe it's just politics - I don't know. They were offering 10,000 sq feet of permanent Office/Work Space to Occupy L.A. with a 5-10 year lease, for $1 a year. In addition, they would provide housing for the homeless currently living in the park, as well as additional SRO housing for Occupy members and some open land to create a garden/farm for generating their own food. There was also some discussion of OLA potentially re-sodding the lawn themselves if they decamp, since it's mostly been trampled into dirt and or mud after all this time.
Lafferty argued that they did have a legal vulnerability. He stated that the 1st Amendment and Free Speech are not absolute and unlimited. You do have a right to redress your grievances with the government, but not necessarily anywhere or at any time. Basically they had a hard block problem with the camping laws. They may be able to maintain tents within the public park space around city hall, but they couldn't legally sleep there. LAPD has simply chosen not to enforce that law so far, and part of the reason the LAPD had had such a hands off attitude, besides the gradually waning support of the mayor for the OLA movement, was the fact that Lafferty had personally gained an agreement from LAPD Police Chief Charlie Beck to go easy before the Occupation had actually begun.
"Hey, you know this is going to happen right?" Lafferty told him.
"Well, as long as there's not 500 tents in the park" Beck said.
Over the last few weeks Lafferty's been calling the Chief ribbing him.. "We've got 468 tents now..."
"Now we've got 506! I honestly underestimated the size of this thing".
So far that gentlemen's agreement has kept things civil. But that tolerance just might be wearing thin as those in the city council begin to complain, so the city has began to shop for a deal.
Just to be clear, this deal wasn't the result of any demands put forth by OLA, this was all the Cities Idea. After 2 weeks and 5 individual meetings they were finally willing to put it in writing, at which point those involved decided to bring the offer back to the others.
No promises were made by anyone affiliated with OLA. No deal was struck. Not yet. There was however, much discussion.
Later at General Assembly, this development did not go down all that well.
Many felt that no one member, or group of members had the right to negotiate on their behalf, without their knowledge since tonight was the first they'd heard of this entire process. Others argued that they'd known about the meetings for at least a week and that if anyone who wanted could have participated in them. No decisions were made, but plenty of passionate opinions were expressed. Some felt, as I did, that this move was incredibly unprecedented. For a ramshackle protest movement to gain a permanent official and sanctioned foothold under a signed lease within the city in which to build upon and launch long term sustained direct actions without worrying about being arrested and dislodged at the whim of someone in the police or city council? That's HUGE. It could allow OLA and Occupy Wall Street to become a permanent fixture within the social and political structure of the city - not just a temporary fad as some detractors would like to assume that it is.
Others argued that by "taking a deal" they would be weakening the legitimacy of their movement, and also that by not making sure that what they were being offered benefited the many rather than just themselves as a group they could undermine own moral authority.
So the question begs, is it time to clean up and go legit or to stay underground and keep the movement in a guerrilla anti-establishment mode with continued civil disobedience?
Or could they possibly do both? Maintain a presence in the park for those who wish to stay there, within legal Park limits or not, and also establish a legitimate Office Front as offered by the city?
Streaming and Tweeting the GA.
At tonight's General Assembly these issues were not resolved, but they do present a dramatic and I think potentially historic victory of the entire Occupy Movement.
Time will tell if they make the right choice with it.
More from the Occupy LA Homepage.