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Occupy L.A. Teaches About Money, Politics And Obama Playing Dead

Sophie Elkus |
November 5, 2011 | 7:43 p.m. PDT


Hundreds of listeners gathered outside Los Angeles City Hall Saturday afternoon to witness a panel of notable speakers share their contempt of large, powerful corporations and need for a youth-led political revolution.

A band of trumpeters played an opening melody for a young rapper, and a little girl on a man’s shoulders waved a sign and shouted “occupy the future!”

The scene was part of an Occupy L.A,-sponsored “teach-in” event, organized by the protest group that has lived on the North Lawn of the building for the past five weeks.

On the agenda, talks about cutting defense funding, making healthcare available and deregulating national banks.

Robert Scheer, executive editor of truthdig.com, roused the audience with his concern of widespread poverty due to “this housing meltdown,” which he called “a disaster of national proportions,” and his disappointment in President Barack Obama for spending much of the government’s funding on defense and not enough on healthcare.

Similarly to the other speakers, Scheer made clear his distaste for large corporations. He cited CEO of General Electric Jeffrey Immlet as a negative choice for Obama’s Economic Advisory Board.

“If anybody would have told me that the guys I voted for would put the same scoundrels in power, I wouldn’t have done it,” Scheer said.

“You should have known it, Bob!” a man shouted from the crowd in response.

Scheer cited the United States’ “so called war on terror” as a main financial drain.

“We spent more than all the other countries combined, and we claim we don’t have money to solve our own problems,” Scheer said.  “It is absolute garbage.”

Also on hand to discuss the issue of large corporations was Robert Reich, a professor of public policy at UC Berkeley and a former U.S. Labor Secretary. He blamed corporations for exploiting Americans due to their need for customers and demand.

“We bailed out the banks,” Reich said. “Why can’t we bail out average working people? American corporations are now sitting on $2 trillion of cash they don’t know what to do with.”

He advised the audience to educate themselves further on the effects of money in the political sphere with Get Money Out, an organization working to draft a constitutional amendment for public debate this fall.

Social worker Julie Levine, an Occupy L.A. advocate living on City Hall’s north lawn since the inception of the protest, cited the movement as a huge step towards change. She has facilitated general assembly meetings at the site and worked with young adults to clearly articulate their protest goals.

“I felt for a long time that it was wrong that corporations were getting rich and writing laws. I care about children and families, and if you don’t have your basic needs met, you don’t have time to make an impact,” Levine said. “This is the movement I’ve been waiting for.”

She described the Oct. 26 protest at the House of Blues during Obama’s visit the most notable moment of activism. Groups of young adults “stormed in, shouting ‘We are the 99th percent!’”

“It was a wonderful thing,” Levine said. “Young people leading and being efficient.”

Levine disagreed with Reich’s approach to reform the current system, calling him “pretty tied to the democratic system.”

“We need to find our solutions outside the system, and I’m not sure he is quite there yet,” she said.

Levine did, however, agree with Reich and Scheer on Obama’s lack of action and proactive thought.

“I’ve seen him roll over and play dead,” Levine said. “I cannot in good conscience vote for him again.”

Despite Obama’s policy choices, Reich is confident that movements like Occupy L.A. are a step in the right direction.

“When something has gone out of whack in our country’s history, people rise. Americans can do it if we are patient, non-violent, and organized,” Reich said.

Other speakers today at the teach-in event were University of Missouri professor William Black, University of Wisconsin professor Joel Rogers, Wall Street financial analyst Michael Hudson, Executive Director of Center for the Study of Political Graphics Carol Wells and UC Berkeley professor George Lakoff.

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