Occupy Los Angeles
City Hall, Los Angeles, California
You’d have to live in a cave to not be aware of the movement occurring in cities across America (and throughout the world) under the collective title of “Occupy”; certainly those living in tents on either side of Los Angeles City Hall are not only aware but are active participants of the movement. In a show of solidarity for the original mass protest in New York City (Occupy Wall Street), disenfranchised and disillusioned Angelenos have amassed a smaller-scale live-in protest that is now well into its second month.
I recently toured the encampment on a warm and sunny Sunday morning, marveling that the cold, damp weather had not dampened the spirits of the protesters. The grassy areas on either side of City Hall were reminiscent of a Depression-era Hooverville, yet the air was not thick with despair; music was playing and groups were gathered together to plan protest activities for the week or to discuss their anger at a situation that has clearly ignited a spark that some politicians and members of the media are labeling “class warfare”.
There were no incidents of violence, no police assembled in riot gear, no pedestrians scrambling for safety as occupants lay siege to City Hall – in the encampment, Angelenos were doing something that one does not frequently see in Southern California – they were taking care of one another. One person was walking through the tents stopping to ask people if they needed food; those who did were handed sandwiches and fruit. Plywood walls were erected in order to protect the marble fountain in City Hall Park and although the box was “decorated” with images of a carnivorous, tentacled U.S. Stock Exchange and other protest imagery, the stone walls of City Hall were not defaced.
Rows of Port-o-Potties provided little sanitation; the encampment had the aroma of unwashed gym socks, not surprising when considering that occupants have been living in tents over a month. Had I been about 10 years older, the whole scene would have been like an acid flashback of waking up to the strains of Jimi Hendrix playing the Star Spangled Banner in a muddy field in upstate New York. It’s uncertain how long Occupy Los Angeles can continue their protest; even the most organized segments of the movement appear to have loosely formed demands, but whatever set them off, they’re mad as hell and they’re not going to take it anymore. For now, the briefcase set that gets up every morning to the alarm clock warning and takes the 8:15 into the city are going to have to get used to it, because Occupy Los Angeles is dug in for winter.
Those of us in the 99 percent that have jobs, a roof over our heads and don’t despair over where our next meal will come from should take a moment to be thankful, for there for the grace of God go us. Think about that the next time you’re gloating about how you got impossible to acquire reservations for Chef Rockstar Pop-up’s latest exclusive celebrity-packed bistro.