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Occupy L.A. Gets Personal

Sarah Parvini |
October 7, 2011 | 8:25 p.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

Malina Lobel-Karimi protests our current political and economic state. Photo by Sarah Parvini.
Malina Lobel-Karimi protests our current political and economic state. Photo by Sarah Parvini.
Malina Lobel-Karimi is tired of the direction the nation is going in.

A business owner with two kids, Karimi and her husband run Luben Construction, a small company based in Palm Desert. They have been fortunate enough to have secure jobs even in the face of slowing business flow, thanks to their loyal customers of more than 20 years. Her family is not behind on any of their payments, and they have not been hit particularly hard by the economic downturn because they cut back on spending and managed their funds.

And yet, despite her fortunate position, Karimi drove more than 120 miles from Palm Desert to stand among the crowd in front of downtown L.A.’s City Hall and protest bank bailouts, corporate greed and the role of money in politics. Although she has not personally suffered, she said, plenty have and it needs to change.

The Occupy L.A. movement is a branch-off of the Occupy Wall Street movement that began over two weeks ago in New York, as an outcry against the same political and economic issues currently being protested in downtown and across the nation.  Activists in L.A., however, provided various views on the topics and raised a few new issues of their own, ranging from student loan pardons to the legalization of marijuana. Despite the varying opinions, Occupy L.A. has seen people from all walks of life and all ages come together. Some camp overnight in tents, and others stop by on their day off from work, but in the end their signs communicate the same sentiment.

“There are so many diverse arguments, but they are all unified under a certain topic, which is basically ‘give the government back to the people. We are the 99 percent, not the one percent that they kowtow to,’” Karimi said.

Among the issues Karimi protested were student loan forgiveness and the amount of money that goes into political campaigns—an estimated six billion in next year’s presidential race alone, she said.

“If the government were to forgive student loans, students would be able to spur the economy by being consumers. Education should be free, that is the most unacceptable part. The Fed is not the biggest problem.”

As a mother, this is an issue that hits particularly close to home. Karimi’s youngest son is 18 years old, and a college freshman. He does computer work on the side but makes only $8.50 an hour, which she said is not enough to sustain himself, and leaves her and her husband paying most of his expenses, including the tuition he can’t afford.

Karimi said there is no single person or entity that can be blamed for the nation’s current state of affairs, and argued that this is the result of a multitude of factors that have fused over the last thirty years. She is hopeful and looks forward to greater momentum in the movement in order to ultimately bring about a complete change in the system.

“Get the money out of politics. That is the number one priority.”

Karimi’s son was at her side, and despite his young age he is a political activist himself. Benjamin Lobel-Karimi shares the same spunk and animated personality his mother has, and seems to be well-educated in the issues at hand, even though he is barely starting college.

The biggest problem, in his opinion, is the money that goes into politics.

“It’s insane how much money is given out. They could be spending it on the education system or helping to support more jobs, but instead they spend it on campaigns to get the candidate they want in office just to get tax breaks or kickbacks.”

Karimi said he remembers when the economy was doing better, and that he recalls when things started to become difficult. Once his family had to rein in on their spending, it started to sink in.

“It was hard, especially for my brother and me. We weren’t used to it, and we were too young to really understand until a few years ago.”

As a result of Occupy L.A., Karimi has become more politically involved in his community. He plans on voting in the next election, but is unsure of who will get his ballot in light of the recent protests. He remains positive, and believes the protests are a wakeup call that will enable more people to understand the issues at hand. After the dust settles and the various “Occupy” movements dwindle, the college freshman hopes that politicians on both sides of the aisle will take the protestors’ views into account.

“The money needs to be redistributed to the people, not to the companies.”



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