Sunday, November 27, 2011

(de) OCCUPY LA: There's Somethin Happen Here What It Is Ain't Exactly Clear

I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore" declared the lifer news anchor Howard Beale in the 1975 film classic Network.  A movie ahead of my time but the message I certainly understand. I have been occupied with Occupy.

Following Mayor Villaragoisa’s order to activists to decamp from City Hall no Angeleno can help but evaluate their stance on Occupy LA and wonder what will happen at 12:01 AM.  Two questions are repeated:  What’s going to happen?  Where the Occupy protestors go?   

What will happen is easy.  The Occupiers will be forced to vacate their camp – the police will move them out.  But what about after they are decamped?  What happens to the things the Occupiers stand for?  Will they be able to continue to assert their beliefs?  Or will the eviction from their camp mean the end of their protest?

But as I sit here I can’t help wanting to break out into my inner UCSB liberal self, holding hands and singing kumbaya.  But instead, Buffalo Springfield’s 60’s lyric seems way more apropos to Occupy.; “There’s somethin’ happenin’ here, what it is ain’t exactly clear.” 

Occupiers have achieved one thing -- they have our attention.  And thanks to the City of Los Angeles -- the Mayor, the police, LA City Council Members, etc. -- they were allowed to use City grounds to make their point.  But now what?   

We all understand that the Occupiers are mad, but about what?   I mean, specifically -- what are Occupiers mad about?  And after you tell me that, please tell me -- what do the Occupiers exactly want?  To me, Occupy has failed to do anything more than occupy -- and as such I am left no choice but to stand by the City in its decision to decamp.  The City may do so not only legally but ethically as well.

My best guess is that the Occupiers represent the 99% of America that feels at an economic disadvantage to the top 1% of American wage earners.  And I must admit that I am not a member of that 99% for definitional purposes.  But I know financial pressure.  I know the job market and I have spent a career advocating, serving and protecting the 99%.  I get the cause and I get the issue.   

I am all for protest, free speech and providing those who choose to protest every protection under the First Amendment – letting voices of dissent make their point is one of the things that makes this country great.   However, Occupiers, you must now listen to our Mayor…as he did you.

The Mayor unequivocally delivered both a message and a plan of action.  He stated,  "The movement is at a crossroads.  It is time for Occupy LA to move from holding a particular patch of park land to spreading the message of economic justice and signing more people up for the push to restore the balance to American society." 

Occupiers, maybe if you had not only a message but also an actual plan the Mayor and the rest of us could stand behind what appears to have become an unsanitary slumber party at City Hall.  But you have put forth no plan, and the Mayor is now forced to act.  That park doesn’t belong to you -- it belongs to all of us.  So, Occupiers, what happens next is up to you. 

How you going to play it?  Do you know?  Who decides what the next step is?

You have done a great job raising awareness and bringing an extremely important message of economic inequality to the table.  But I can’t take issue with the City of Los Angeles saying it’s time to pack up when there is no end in sight.  And like I do when I am confused about my stance, I simply look to the law. 

The First Amendment allows for the freedom of speech and freedom of assembly to that end.  But, there is no right in the Constitution that permits day in and day out sleepovers and camp-outs in city owned/public property.  There is no right to loiter nor right to trespass that appears in the Constitution. 

The City of Los Angeles’ position has been that the City would not interfere with Occupy to show its support for the cause.  In doing so, however, the City did not somehow abdicate its rights to provide a safe and sanitary park for all citizens to enjoy.  The City has the right to enforce the laws of the land and to order people to disperse when the peaceful assembly has become a nuisance, a public health issue, or has created danger.

"The goal is to do this as peacefully as possible," Chief Beck said.  But some Occupy protesters have already indicated that they will resist eviction from the City Hall park.  So now that we are less than 4 hours away from decampment time what’s gonna happen?  

Cops are doing NOTHING today but keeping a watchful eye.  Both sides (cops and Occupiers) are saying what happens depends on the actions of the other.  By tomorrow we can expect about 300-400 police officers at the scene.  The number of folks coming to protest remains largely unknown though there was a Facebook page inviting 26,000 people to a Eviction Block Party.

Inside law enforcement sources say that the Occupy decampment plan is to be dictated by the number and demeanor of the protestors.  The mantra is that the crowd will dictate police action -- not the other way around.  Internal police meetings (roll call as well as internal emails) suggest that LAPD and LASD are specifically discussing how now to have a “Davis”.    

As such, I am told that they will NOT use pepper spray as a subduing mechanism -- but any escalation may warrant a change of ground rules.  For now the police are relying on traditional means per protocol for people who don't disperse.   However, there is word that there may be other nonviolent means that police could use should the situation start to get out of hand. 

They will arrest people who are committing clear crimes – using drugs, alcohol, or flagrantly disturbing the peace. If the number of protestors grows so large to require dispersement, police will physically lift people and take them into police cars to remove them from the scene.  Even this however, according to an internal police email, will not be done without SUPERVISOR permission. 

Law enforcement is anticipating that some folks will be easy to get to remove from the scene as they commit crimes in front of the police that will justify arrest.  Those protesters who are peeing in public or using drugs and alcohol, people who have known warrants out for their arrest – those people will be removed first.  The next round of people to be removed will be the ones considered trespassers, loiterers and obstructers.  Finally, there will come an official time set to say “move it or arrest” -- we do know that time will come and police are hopeful that it will be as drama-free as it was at the Occupy march a week ago.  

So, LA Occupiers we know what the police are going to do.  We know how they are going to do it and their message is pretty darn clear, “It’s time to vacate the premises.”  They made a decision, have a plan, and will implement in only a few hours. 

You have been on the lawn for 7 weeks.  My question to you is if you are fighting to stay then please tell us what you are saying and what you want. 

And while I can’t find a clear message for what Occupy the movement stands for I did find a number of resources on the Occupy LA website.  Here they have provided things you can do to Stop the Eviction of Occupy LA.  Occupiers are calling for people to show up on 11pm on Sunday night in solidarity and have generated a petition to stop the eviction.  “Take the time to sign it, tweet it, and pass it along to your friends, “ they say.

They further encourage supporters to email the Mayor and Council Members too!

Antonio Villaraigosa: (213) 978-0600 or (213) 978-0721
District 1: Ed Reyes: (213)-473-7001
District 2: Paul Krekorian: (213)-473-7002
District 3: Dennis Zine: (213)-473-7003
District 4: Tom LaBonge: (213)-473-7004
District 5: Paul Koretz: (213)-473-7005
District 6: Tony Cardenas: (213) -473-7006
District 7: Richard Alacorn: (213)-473-7007
District 8: Bernard Parks: (213)-473-7008
District 9: Jan Perry: (213)-473-7009
District 10: Herb Wesson Jr.: (213)-473-7010
District 11: Bill Rosendahl: (213)-473-7011
District 12: Mitchell Englander: (213)-473-7012
District 13: Eric Garcetti: (213)-473-7013
District 14: Jose Huizar: (213)-473-7014


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