Occupy L.A. Celebrates One-Year Anniversary
Under the glaring sun and record heat, members of the "99 percent" wrote down their messages of protest ("Feed the people," "This is hypocrisy not democracy") with chalk while LAPD officers observed from a distance, ready to break up the crowd if things got out of hand.
“Instead of being out arresting drunk drivers or responding to calls, we have to be here to babysit these people,” one LAPD officer said as he sat on his motorcycle, his annoyance palpable.
A mix of scents permeated the air--from the marijuana being smoked by those who want it legalized, to cigarette fumes and the smell of sizzling water on white-hot concrete.
Chanting "From New York to L.A. occupy the U.S.A." and "El pueblo unido jamas sera vencido," Occupy supporters prepared to march through the area and protest what they call corporate greed.
Among the crowd was Nelson Gist, 70, who traveled from the Coachella Valley to show solidarity and support for the Occupy movement. A former steelworker and Teamster, Nelson believes capitalism is the country's biggest problem.
"The disparity of income is becoming bigger and bigger," he said. "I don't see this as just a boom and bust. I see this downturn as a qualitative change...I don't think the middle class is coming back."
Throughout the throngs of people, some wore the now-infamous "V For Vendetta" masks that have become associated with the movement--and groups like Anonymous--while others wore jackets describing their activism as the "American Spring," a clear play on the Arab Spring protests that have spread throughout the Middle East and stirred unrest.
Occupiers were evicted from the City Hall lawn, known as "Solidarity Park," last fall after protesting for two months. The activists were initially welcomed by city officials, but they were kicked out as unrest grew and health issues rose out of grimy conditions.
Protesters claim complaints about the cleanliness of the camp were just an excuse to kick them out and squelch the movement, citing their sanitation crews and porta potties as evidence. There is now a curfew in place at City Hall; people have to be out of the park by 10:30 p.m.
“A lot of people would face arrest if they tried to camp in the park,” said Occupy activist Julie Levine, who took on the roll of "legal observer" early on in the gathering. “Police wouldn’t hesitate to [take action] if they tried.”
The LAPD agreed.
Read more of Neon Tommy's coverage of Occupy L.A., including the one-year anniversary march, here.