Occupy LA Holds Fort, Preps For Showdown
"At Occupy L.A., we have not been subject to the crack of batons or the sting of pepper spray - this is as it should be - we view such weaponry as a complete violation of occupiers' rights as peaceful protestors and we demand such devices not be used on our Occupation," the Occupy L.A. Media Relations Committee said in a statement on their website on Wednesday morning. "We deplore the brutal show of force we have witnessed around the nation. We hold LAPD to a higher standard than we have seen from other cities."
That same afternoon, groups gathered on the north steps of City Hall for a seminar on nonviolence. According to Elise Whitaker, who ran the seminar, their goal is "to make the police look ridiculous for pepper spraying the nonviolent."
Whitaker said she doesn't foresee a raid in Los Angeles; a gentleman participating in the seminar added that Los Angeles Police are executing their "best public relations move ever" by setting themselves apart from violent police departments across the country.
The Media Relations Committee's statement made reference to a conference call between the mayors of 19 cities looking to crackdown on their occupations. News of the call was first leaked in a BBC interview with Oakland Mayor Jean Quan. According to spokesman Peter Sanders, L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa did not take part in the conference call, nor is he colluding with other mayors on how to evict the local occupation.
"Apparently, we've [trashed] their grass," Alex Weinschenker said. Indeed, the main grievance city officials are taking up with the occupiers is the damage they've caused to the lawn and trees outside of City Hall. The city's parks and recreation department's general manager is saying that the camp has cost the city $120,000, according to a memo obtained by City Maven.
The L.A. Times ran an opinion piece on Wednesday stating that the obliterated lawn outside City Hall might be a blessing in disguise: an opportunity for the city to replace the lush (and equally money-draining) greenery with a water-wise garden.
Lawn debacles aside, occupiers appear unified about not leaving any time soon.
"The basic consensus at last night's General Assembly and throughout the camp today has been that if we get shut down, we're coming back in full force," occupier Anthony Lascano said.
Some of the long haul protestors saw this moment coming from the beginning. Weinschenker, who operates The Print Shop at Occupy L.A.and has been at the occupation since day one, believes that anyone who came to the occupation thinking this was going to be a permanent base is missing the point of an occupation.
"I don't know any other group besides The Zapatista Army of National Liberation that has been able to stay mobile and militant while holding space," he said. "We knew from the beginning that we're doing something that the state or the city or whatever you want to call the brutalitarian regime that runs our lives doesn't want us to be here. This isn't our space. That's why it's called an occupation."
Police forces brandishing plastic shields and batons have raided occupations, making violent arrests of, in some cases, hundreds of occupiers. In the case of a raid at Occupy L.A., Whitaker says plans are to have those who aren't arrested assemble at Union Station, where they will treat injuries and then immediately reclaim the camp. She added that Occupy L.A. is also hoping to establish a permanent secondary location where the movement can continue.
"We set up each occupation with a permanent intention," she said. "We'll stay until our demands are met. Are we going to be able to stay here forever without a raid? I don't think so."
The scene on Wednesday at Occupy L.A. was noticeably sunny, and not just from a Southern California November glow. Beside the drumming circle that burned incense for spellbound dancers was an impromptu soccer game. A bluegrass band played in one corner while a Marvin Gaye impersonator led a chorus in "Let's Get It On."
Amidst the lighthearted scene taking place outside City Hall, a distinct combativeness hung heavy in the air.
"They're going to make us bigger and stronger [if they raid here,]" said protestor T.C. Alexander, who compared the scenes in New York and Oakland to Afghanistan and Iraq. "I hope they hurry up and do it. Quit talking about it. If you're going to beat us up, then beat us up. Pepper spray, rubber bullets, whatever you got. Break out all of your toys and do what you've got to do. That's my message to the pigs. We're not scared."
Reach reporter Allegra Tepper here.
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