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Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

Occupy L.A. Necessary For American Change

Michael Juliani |
October 2, 2012 | 3:45 p.m. PDT

Assistant News Editor

Occupier on the steps of Pershing Square.  (Michael Juliani / Neon Tommy)
Occupier on the steps of Pershing Square. (Michael Juliani / Neon Tommy)

On Monday afternoon, I stood on the Olive Street steps that lead up to Pershing Square, staring at a mural of an elephant sticking its trunk into the vagina of a woman with a donkey's head.

Three black guys were holding it across the top of the steps, and when I met eyes with one of them he grinned as if to challenge me.

I didn't realize until somebody mentioned it that the mural was "a political statement on the incestuous nature of the two-party system in American politics."

ALSO SEE: Occupy L.A. Celebrates One-Year Anniversary

All I hear about the Occupy movement from my peers is groans and "it's hard to take these people seriously."

My male friends from the South have the same reaction to the Occupy movement as they do to feminism. 

On Monday, Occupiers marched through downtown L.A.'s streets, stopping at various addresses of corruption, making lobby security nervous and dragging along the chain of police who had to watch in droves, taking verbal abuse the whole way. 

When the Occupiers stopped at the L.A. Public Library for some shade from the 100-degree heat, the Figueroa Street sidewalk became the platform for "Fuck the police" chanting and dancing to NWA.

Last night I fell asleep with this blaring in my mind: "Without that badge you a bitch and a half / Fuck the police / Fuck the police."

About 100 cops stood looking on, frustrated, bored and chuckling to themselves. 

At this point, it actually seemed like the Occupiers were having fun, because they hardly ever seem to be having fun--perhaps this is the equilibrium of anarchists. 

I used to be judgmental of the Occupiers, myself, even though I knew I supported them.

It was hard for me at the time not to trust the L.A. Times, whose news desk has windows facing City Hall, where the Occupiers camped last October and November before being forcibly removed due to the mayor's "sanitation concerns."

ALSO SEE: Occupy L.A. Marches For First Anniversary

Most of the journalists who stayed for the march were the freaks, those whose only separation from the movement is the lens of their camera.

People like the CrossXBones live streamer, who was strapped to his video camera and hooked up to a monitoring system that allowed him to talk with the audience of the broadcast.

With a nose ring, eyeliner and an endless stream of cigarettes, he had his press pass clipped to his belt, hanging down his leg.

Or Sam Slovick, who has lived within the Occupy movement since it started, making documentaries, leading heart-first into healing himself with his subject.

A former teenage runaway who has lived on Skid Row and written for the L.A. Weekly, Slovick has been living for the past month at Fort Hernandez, a foreclosed home in Van Nuys that Occupiers have moved into to protect the Hernandez family from eviction. 

Always wielding this gnarly black camera, looking like he doesn't eat well and smokes too much, he's close with many at the Occupy camp, and Monday I watched him yell at a cop's face about free speech.

I prefer this model to all the other reporters'--I feel like I'm one of the few who still looks at the movement as exactly what America needs.

People are bored with Occupy and tired of having their commute home further clogged by a horde of pot smokers with literally nowhere else to be but the gutter or jail.

The most-cited criticism of Occupy is its supposed lack of vision or goals.

In the past year, some offshoot groups like Fort Hernandez and 99Rise have focused on more specific regions of American corruption--but that's beside the point.

The reason why the bourgeois dismiss the Occupy movement is also its greatest beauty: it's made entirely from soul.

America doesn't allow this, especially those people who won't really be affected by political change unless it comes and stops traffic on their way home.  

That's why you have people like my friends who get abusive when confronted with Occupy's "commie bullshit."

And they're not only programmed with an inherent defense of capitalism, but also of the stability of all that's affected by it: housing, lifestyle, education, hygiene, health, race, gender, etc.

The Occupiers aren't criminals, but they don't respect laws that further the status quo that doesn't include them.

In fact, they're the the antithesis of this racist, classist stereotype of the unemployed that's perpetuated by people like Paul Ryan, because the Occupiers are working creatively to take back human rights from a system that's stolen from society and convinced the comfortable people of America to defend their right to do so.

When you witness the Occupy policy of inclusion--all the "filth" at Solidarity Park last year--you're seeing the movement to abolish this American repression.

That so-called crazy-wacko-homeless aspect of Occupy L.A. can actually articulate its own American experience pretty well to those who can handle a hoarse, volatile and high-volume voice. 

It should be no surprise to people that those who have no instinct to defend American capitalism are poor, dirty, pissed off and willing to ruin your ride home.

Like I said earlier, the Occupiers aren't happy, even when they're having fun.

"Hasn't this been a great year?" one woman said into the microphone during the rally at Pershing.

"No," more than one responded, without being facetious.

"A political statement on the incestuous nature of the two-party system in American politics."  (Sarah Parvini / Neon Tommy)
"A political statement on the incestuous nature of the two-party system in American politics." (Sarah Parvini / Neon Tommy)

They smoke like crazy, having spent another year getting hassled by police and living with anger, and have the hardened faces of those with pessimism of the mind and optimism of the will.

I'm always moved and troubled by the video of protesters from last year pleading with police to understand that they're also fighting for them and their children, since cops aren't exactly that well-taken-care-of either.

Cops have no time for metaphysics when they're on the job, and that's understandable, in some way.

My fellow editor noticed that three big men in suits had joined the cavalcade of commanding officers trailing the march on Monday.

We kept asking around, but none of the officers knew who they were.

Eventually, we saw them standing apart, alone, while things were sedentary at the library.

We approached them and they watched us come.

My fellow editor asked first if they were cops.

"No," one said, smirking.

"Are you detectives?" she asked.


"Then who are you?"

"We're just people," he said, still smiling while we stood in shock, slowly backing away.

Read more of Neon Tommy's coverage of Occupy L.A. here.

Reach Assistant News Editor Michael Juliani here

Follow him on Twitter here.



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