Occupy Los Angeles

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The Occupy Los Angeles demonstration is a part of the Occupy Movement which began on Sept. 17, 2011 with the original Occupy Wall Street demonstration in New York City. The demonstration "has been in the making since Sept. 23,"[1] and began occupying the south lawn of City Hall on Oct. 1.[2]



Participants

Support

DSA Involvement

On Oct. 2, 2011, Democratic Socialists of America member Jack Rothman spent the afternoon at the Occupy Los Angles encampment (its second day). Rothman wrote of his experience at the protest,[2]

"There were lots of posters with a range of themes, the majority condemning Wall Street greed. I saw one supporting Ron Paul and another calling for a Communist Revolution. I liked one reading: "I will believe corporations are people, when Texas executes one of them." A media station was at work doing a live feed and making DVDs. Food (mainly pizza and cookies) and drinks were being passed around. Clusters of people seemed to be unwinding or dealing with organizational business.
I joined a group meeting on police brutality. Diverse opinions came forward. Members of the Security Committee favored cooperating with the police to avoid unnecessary trouble or injury—and after all, police are part of our 99% and could be won over to our cause. Other speakers wanted the group to take a detached approach since the police could not be trusted. Individual cops may be OK, but when they put on a badge they are an instrument of an oppressive system—so be wary and don't let them dominate what we do. A third view came from members whose experience in ethnic or action groups convinced them that police brutality was rampant and continuous. These members seemed itching for a confrontation with the police.
The discussion was thoughtful, orderly, and deliberate. I spoke up to say that the announced central goal was to curtail Wall Street excesses and that a lot of emphasis on dealing with the cops might be distracting. To the degree that the actions of the New York police result in a preoccupation with police issues, those cops will have successfully diverted the group from its main aims. After a good bit of additional back and forth, the group simply recommended that workshops be set up to help members know how to interact with the police.
For a new and inexperienced group, there was more organizational acumen in evidence than I would have expected. There were committees on food, finances, logistics, civic engagement, outreach, welcoming, art-entertainment-education, and a medical team. Committee meeting times and places were posted around the encampment. Everyone looked serious and focused. There appeared to be a long-term commitment. Some people were evidently acting in a leadership capacity and maintaining a functioning action community. Overall, I felt good about how this was coming together and have an optimistic outlook. A critical question is whether important elements of the left will join in and propel forward this remarkable but delicate youth-generated revolt—and the sooner the better."

LA County Federation of Labor

On Nov. 27, Maria Elena Durazo, executive secretary and treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor issued a statement in solidarity with the protestors:[3]

“We are grateful to the Occupy movement for refocusing the country to the issue of income inequality. We call for nonviolence in all acts of civil disobedience by Occupy LA and in professional procedures by the LAPD. We are committed to a long-term movement from the 99 percent to hold Wall Street and the banks accountable for devastating our economy."

LA Mayor "Sympathizes" with Occupiers

According to an Associated Press article, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has expressed admiration that, at least so far, the Occupy Los Angeles movement has remained peaceful, unlike those in some other cities around the country. The article also stated that while the mayor, a former labor organizer himself, has said he sympathizes with the movement, he added it’s time to close the encampment of some 500 tents that dot the lawn in front of City Hall for the sake of public health and safety.[3]

Alarcon Supports "Occupy" and Mario Brito

The following memo was transcribed in Daily Kos, December 22, 2011, by Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism activist Clay Claiborne. It was from Los Angeles City Council member Richard Alarcon, supporting Occupy Los Angeles, and Communist Party USA member Mario Brito.[4]

From: Councilmember Richard Alarcon
To: Hon. Carmen Trutanich, City Attorney
Chief Charlie Beck, Los Angeles Police Department
Tony Royster, General Manager, General Services Department
CC: Mario Brito, "Occupy Los Angeles"
Date: Friday, September 30th, 2011
Re: Providing Occupy LA Event - Tomorrow Saturday, Oct. 1st at City Hall- with Reasonable Accommodations to Peacefully Exercise 1st Amendment Rights
I'm writing to urge you to provide a reasonable accommodation to "Occupy Los Angeles" in order to both protect the City's interests and to allow this group to peacefully exercise it's First Amendment rights.
It will benefit neither the City nor "Occupy Los Angeles" if peaceful protesters are arrested at or near City Hall tomorrow night...It would be unwise for our City to be overly aggressive and change the story from what it is--a protest against financial institutions--into a story about the City being inhospitable to peaceful demonstrations of civil rights.
I recommend that "Occupy Los Angeles" demonstrators be allowed to sleep near City Hall tomorrow night...

CC: Mario Brito, "Occupy Los Angeles"Ten years ago he was organizing meat packing employees in Ventura County. More recently he is a Lincoln Heights Neighborhood Council member and endorsed the call of Latinos for Peace. Early on he got involved in building Occupy Los Angeles and it became the focus of his work. After the encampment began he slept there almost every night.

"Raison D’etre "

In October 2011, Mario Brito, Occupy Los Angeles’ city liaison, summed up the occupation cause’s raison d’etre as “economic justice,” and told fellow Communist Party USA supporter Ed Rampell of Back Page Magazine: “This is an international movement – it’s not only happening in Wall Street, it’s happening in 170 cities in the U.S., and cities in Europe and Latin America.”

Mario Brito asserted: “The vast majority of Americans actually believe income inequality is a major problem. They only reason they haven’t acted upon it is because there hasn’t been a mass movement.”[5]

Demonstrators in Los Angeles camped out in front of City Hall and said they would remain camped at the site 'indefinitely'.

" We have no time limit, this camp will remain until we achieve what we want: the population's right to employment, education and health services; immigrants' right to employment and no companies influence on politics", Mario Brito declared.[6]

The group also decided to work with the Los Angeles Police Department to obtain permits and cooperation, hoping to avoid altercations with police.

“If we have an adversarial relationship with the cops, it’s not going to work,” said Mario Brito, moderator of a September 25 meeting .

Occupy LA is an offshoot of “Occupy Wall Street,” a demonstration that is now in its ninth day. An “occupy” movement is also growing Chicago.

The LA group intends to stay autonomous of any political parties, and deciding to organize under the banner “We are the 99 percent,” which calls attention to America’s wealth and power disparity.

It is one percent of Americans who own 40 percent of the country’s wealth and earns 25 percent of the income. The fact that the super-rich have been obtaining more wealth since the Great Recession is a point of frustration for many who face high unemployment, growing poverty and austerity measures.

on September 26 , Occupy LA made an appearance in West Hollywood for President Barack Obama’s fundraising visit. The plan was not to protest the president, but to reach out to other activist groups, something that has been missing from LA’s occupation movement.

After a sometimes frustrating organizing process that is filled with many diverse points of view, Bitro said protesters are unified.

“We agree on one thing, that the economic inequalities in this country have to stop,” he said. “We have to fight back on this issue. We have to hold corporate America responsible, and the politicians that support them.”

The group holds meetings every night and is leaderless. Bitro was tonight’s moderator, and after the meeting, another moderator was voted in for the next day. Although people of all ages are present, the majority are youths.

“I think that politicians who ignore these young people, and the bureaucrats who just feel they are kids and hippies, are really missing the whole concept,” said Bitro. “They are actually hitting on an issue that is becoming more and more apparent for a lot people.”[7]

Workers World Party involvement

Early in the occupation, many participants opposed an “End Police Brutality Committee” proposed by some people of color because at that time, it was argued, “there has not been any police brutality at Occupy L.A.” At one point Mejicano activists who argued against the police being considered part of the 99 percent were booed by other, mostly white participants.

As the debate on police brutality grew, however, more and more of the occupiers began to reject the notion that police were friends of Occupy L.A., especially as Boston, Chicago and other city encampments suffered brutal police attacks. This opening cleared the way for the Oct. 12 Coalition Against Police Brutality to march from Occupy L.A. with a good number of supporters.

A big program was held on the Pelican Bay Prison hunger strike. Workers World Party activists participating in the events were able to call for a march in solidarity with the prisoners at the General Assembly, support for which passed by consensus just days before the striker’s demands were met and the strike called off. The WWP members also promoted a film about socialist Cuba, which was shown to all the occupation participants.

WWP members also helped organize another action at local bank offices. When they marched to Wells Fargo Bank just a few blocks away, security quickly scrambled to shut their doors and closed their lobby to the public with barricades. For the protesters, this amounted to a large victory, and they marched through L.A.’s financial district chanting, “Fight the banks, shut them down!”

One marcher waved a large portrait of Lenin at the bankers. It was like waving a cross at a vampire. The next day there was also a Karl Marx portrait that read: “99%ers of the world unite!” [8]

Police 1%ers

According to Socialist Action website November 20, 2011, at a recent Occupy Los Angeles demonstration, activist Ron Gochez, speaking about police brutality, made the statement that “police are not part of the 99%.” His remarks were met with jeers from some of the crowd, who tried to shout him down. Later he said, “Although they (cops) might make the money of the 99%, they represent and defend the 1%.” Opposition to his statements reveals dangerous illusions about which side the police are on.[9]

Committees

The demonstrators have organized committees for food, finances, logistics, civic engagement, outreach, welcoming, art-entertainment-education, and a medical team.[2]

Individuals Mentioned as Being a Member of or Affiliated with Occupy LA and Their Activities

In an AP story reprinted at "Townhall.com" (12/04/2011), entitled "Report: Police went undercover to watch Occupy LA", 12/03/2011, the lead sentence was as follows:

  • "Los Angeles police used nearly a dozen undercover detectives to infiltrate the Occupy LA encampment before this week's raid to gather information on protesters' intentions, according to media reports Friday."

One protester was mentioned and quoted, in the following sentence:

  • Occupy LA protester Mario Brito told City News Service he was not surprised by the revelation, but said it was "tantamount to 1950s McCarthyism."

Brito has been identified by Keywiki as a member and leader of the Communist Party USA (CPUSA) in Los Angeles, among other leftist organizations. More information on his identity can be found at his KW page.

  • The police raided the encampment to evict the protesters, and this AP News article said that "The undercover work yielded information that some protesters were preparing bamboo spears and other potentialy dangerous weapons in advance of an expected eviction by the LAPD, none of which were used, according to City News Service which first reported the story.

The raid resulted in 291 people being arrested, with 46 of them being charged with misdemeanor crimes of failure to disperse from an unlawful assembly, "while others were charged with resisting arrest." Also, 58 posted bail or were released by the police (KW: reason not given in story), while "an additional 187 protesters were released without bail and without being charged because they had no prior criminal records. Bail amounts ranged from $5,000 for most of the defendants to as high as $20,000."

External Links

References