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Inside Occupy Los Angeles: Week 6 (Veterans Day, police brutality, visits from Bill Maher, Jesse Jackson)

November 22, 2011

The week started with Occupy Riverside (a college-city in the Inland Empire region of Southern California) getting raided, resulting in several arrests. Some of our occupiers in Los Angeles carpooled out there to show support. I woke up to a wet and windy morning. I went over to the Occupy Media tent to see if there was any more work to be done for the day. Things were moving slow for that morning, so I decided to return later. Right after exiting out of the tent, I noticed a white male with grey hair surrounded around a group of occupiers. I walked halfway down the South steps, looked closer, and then ran back to the media tent saying “I think that Bill Maher is here. I’m not 100% sure. But I think that it’s him.” I left out of the tent and joined the crowd; it was indeed the comedian, social figure, and host of HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher. He answered the questions of occupiers with cameras and microphones out. He also gave a brief interview to Occupy LA Media. I got the opportunity to meet him and take a picture with him.

I went home for a day and returned on Tuesday to join the planned demonstration. On my way to downtown Los Angeles, I received notice that Reverend Jesse Jackson was scheduled to make an appearance at noon; it was later postponed to 6pm. I caught up with the tail end of the march a little bit after 12pm, later than initially planned. It was actually a good thing that Rev. Jackson decided to come later that night. We arrived to 7th and Figueroa in front of Bank of America and demonstrated, trying to get public attention and support. Several occupiers stood outside of the doors of the Bank of America, encouraging customers to transfer to a not-for-profit credit union as they entered and exited. The police presence increased after a few occupiers sitting down refused to stand up after being asked to by officers. According to the officers, it was illegal for us to sit on a public sidewalk. They told us that we either had to stand or march. We challenged the officers for a while and decided that we would pick a better day to risk arrest. We returned back to City Hall.

 

 

Reverend Jesse Jackson showed up on the South side of City Hall at 6:30pm; he briefly toured that side and then took the top of the South steps to give a speech. He spoke for about 15 minutes and afterwards answered questions from the occupiers surrounded around him; he also gave a brief interview to Occupy LA Media while he was there. As he was leaving, there was a mild disruption from a frantic occupier that tried to ask him questions about King’s assassination. Rev. Jackson and his few security guards took off in their vehicle just as the frantic occupier was being contained by other concerned occupiers.

 

 

The next day, some of our student brothers and sisters in Northern California faced police brutality while peacefully protesting. A demonstration took place in Los Angeles as well, but i wasn’t present that day. On November 11, at the same time that Occupy Wall St. took to Central Park, we marched to the Financial District in Downtown LA and took over three different intersections, blocking traffic. Most cars honked at us, wanting us to get out of the way, others passed by honking in support of us. I assisted a photographer and shot some footage of our takeover of the downtown streets. Also at this time, some of our Veteran occupiers went down to the V.A. hospital off of Wilshire to demonstrate there (it was Veterans Day). They were greeted with grumpy officers that wanted them to leave; one occupier had his camera taken away. In the Financial District, we were told that we needed to get out of the street or we would all be arrested. Our crowd of about 50 protesters decided that it would be best to return to City Hall for the day.

I woke up the next morning to a very strong wind that I described on Facebook as trying to “eat my tent.” I spent about an hour trying to pin my tent down to prevent it from blowing away. The People’s University tent was damaged in the little storm and had to be taken down as a result of it. I went over to the South side where a confrontation between several occupiers and a couple LAPD officers was taking place. The occupiers were told that they couldn’t build fire pits on public property. The occupiers claimed that the pits were contained and posed no safety issues. The cops told them that the fire pits would need to go away or they would come through and shut it down. The defiant occupiers then challenged the officers to raid our site. Not everyone standing around agreed with challenging law enforcement to raid us. A leader on the security team talked with a few officers trying to reach an agreement. It was interesting to see LAPD almost have to beg regular citizens to obey the law when in the past it would have been a completely different story. Nothing happened later on that day related to that specific confrontation.

I lead a group of about thirty people to Pershing Square where we meet up with folks from Occupy Long Beach and Occupy Pasadena. There was a teach-in held with various speakers. I left early and returned to City Hall where for the first time in a long time a full hearty vegan meal was being served. The General Assembly later that night turned into a shouting match, and showed the internal power-struggle within our movement. Yes, we have more actions. Yes, people are getting more serious. But, we still have a ways to go as far as getting our shit together to effectively take over the city the way that we need to.

Upcoming: Week 7 includes coverage of the controversial and highly publicized National Day of Action (November 17), arrests, more police mistreatment, and issues with the local press.

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