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Occupy LA, Day 1

by Anna Kunkin: LA Imc Collective Member Sunday, Oct. 02, 2011 at 4:18 PM
anna1baila@yahoo.com

October 1, 2011 Three to Five thousand people gathered in Pershing Square in Downtown LA, at 10 am to march to City Hall. The purpose, to occupy City Hall in Solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street Movement that is in its twelfth day in New York City.

This is a movement that has sprung up over the disillusionment that has grasped the people of this country after finally coming to the realization that the corporations are in control, and that the government and the courts, in the pockets of the 1% which make up the highest level of elite, only exist to plunder and steal from the rest of us, the other 99%, until we are left with absolutely nothing.

The Occupy Wall Street movement was originally called for by a group called Adbusters, and was inspired by the Arab Spring. Organizers intend for the occupation to last "as long as it takes to meet our demands." Demands are in the process of being negotiated and developed. As of September 27 the Occupy Wall Street site reported that "52 cities were occupied or organizing" including Boston, San Francisco, and Chicago, as coordinated on Occupytogether.org

Now Los Angeles joins the occupied.

There’s no doubt that something is happening here. Was it unexpected? No; those of us in the justice struggle have always known it would happen eventually. It was always just a matter of time. And now that it’s here, there are the expected questions. Is it sustainable? Is it “It”?...the thing that will really rattle the cages and make the change?

I arrived at the stated meeting place, Pershing Square in Downtown LA, at just after 10:30 am. From the metro I couldn’t see anyone on the plaza or hear any noise, but as I approached I could see a large crowd of people assembled on the inside of the park. My timing was perfect. I barely had time to look around and say hi to a couple of people I knew before the crowd started marching towards the street. I held back for a while to get a sense of how many people were there, and I must admit I was surprised. It seemed to take at least 15 minutes for all the people there to stream out into the street. A lot of people! Thousands! And this with only 11 days of organizing!

With a sense of awe at the numbers I marched towards City Hall with the crowd. The first thing I noticed was the level of cooperation from the LAPD who were busy stopping traffic at intersections to let the crowd move through; even against red lights. I knew this was a non-permitted march, and I wondered what the thoughts or tactics were that led to this cooperation.

The crowd arrived at the intended location without incident and of course immediately did the obvious thing and took possession of the front stairs, the entryway to City Hall. It was just too irresistible. It also afforded a wonderful photo opportunity which many took advantage of before the word came down to move to the lawn which was done in good spirits.

In fact good spirits pervaded throughout the entire day. The OccupyLA group is wonderfully organized and had an information booth for signing up and dropping off donations, a first aid booth, and a microphone, with an invitation to all to get up and express their feelings about the current financial and political system; an opportunity that many took advantage of throughout the day. There is also a video committee which is doing their best to keep a constant live stream up at http://www.livestream.com/owslosangeles, and a web committee maintaining a site at Occupylosangeles.org.

I was handed a schedule of events which included, along with time for participants to voice their opinions, speeches by veteran and activist Ron Kovic, the ex congressional candidate Marcy Winograd, and a welcome speech by someone named Ben. There would be forum discussions later in the day, poets, live music, and dinner would be delivered at 5:30 by Food Not Bombs. By 10:30, it was announced, the park would be closed and everyone occupying over-night would have to remove themselves to the sidewalk. It remains to be seen if they will be allowed to sleep on the sidewalk. Only tomorrow will tell.

I continued to be marveled by the level of energy and organization of the OccupyLA group. Just when energies were starting to flag around 1pm, there were suddenly hundreds of boxes of pizza and soda. Out of solidarity and to participate, I had to partake of the pizza, although I balked at the Cokes and Diet Cokes that were offered. Yeah, I get it. The caffeine did keep the energy up….but I couldn’t avail myself of the “Drink of the Death Squads” and I just hope there is some future level of consciousness about the products that are purchased for these events.

Still, I have to admit; it was a brilliant move and kept people there who might otherwise have left to get lunch.

People kept arriving throughout the day, and so, with some leaving, there never seemed to be a drop in numbers. The speakers continued and there were discussions everywhere. Walking around I saw a number of drum circles, a group in a circle doing some kind of energy raising exercise and of course cameras and recording equipment everywhere.

I had a discussion with one of the organizers, a long time activist and homeless organizer. What he told me is what I had suspected; and that is that many of the people who have come together for this movement are first time activists with little or no experience. These are folks who have done everything they were supposed to, and are just coming to the hard realization that not only is the other side not complying with it’s side of the bargain, but that all their hopes and dreams are suddenly converted to gossamer with no substance. It’s all been stolen. Everything they have been told and have believed is nothing more than a lie. So these folks, mostly young, but some in their 50’s and older, are suddenly woken up and thrown in with seasoned activists. They don’t all have the same experience and tools that people who have been around for awhile have, and for example, some of them still think you can negotiate things like sleeping arrangements with the police; or don’t realize that there are problems with posting all your tactics and contacts on Facebook.

There are obviously going to be reactions from some more seasoned folks who look at this kind of naïveté and don’t know what to think; but it isn’t all negative. There is also a level of energy and lack of cynicism which is refreshing and positive. We’ve been waiting for these folks to hit bottom and join us, and they need to be welcomed with respect now. We’re all needed here. The people with knowledge will be needed to catch and support the newbies when they are hit with the realization that one action is only a part of an ongoing process and probably won’t bring Wall Street to its knees in one fell swoop. And meanwhile our numbers are growing.

Something is happening. There’s a change.

I invite everyone to post your impressions of this new phase of the movement here, and your feelings about where this is going. You can post comments to what I’ve written, but please take advantage of the Indymedia format to also write-up and post your own report-backs, photos and video. This is your media. Don’t wait for someone else to tell your story for you; tell it yourself.

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