Eagle Rock gets free alternative to capitalism

November 16, 2010

Participants give freely and take freely at the LA Freestore by sharing goods, information and advice. LA Freestore was established as a community building effort to promote sustainability, environmentalism and alternatives to capitalism. (Dan Bluemel / LA Activist)

Live old-time music and free goods brought a number of Angelenos in Eagle Rock together on Saturday, Nov. 13, to practice the art of sustainable living in the parking lot of Casa Princesa Café, turned trading post for the LA Freestore.

The fundamental idea behind the LA Freestore was to bring what you can and take what you need, and attendees did just that. The event took place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and had an unending stream of participants – freegans, children and passersby – that continued to pile books, electronics, tools and miscellaneous items onto tables and fill racks with clothing. Any open space at the freestore was soon replaced by donated furniture.

LA Freestore volunteer Gretel Diaz hands a tag to a participant that lists a service or skill that they can provide. Diaz, a Pasadena City College student, is president of her school’s Anthropology Club. (Dan Bluemel / LA Activist)

“We all just end up throwing this stuff away and it will end up in landfills,” said freestore volunteer Gretel Diaz. “Might as well bring it here where somebody could potentially use it.”

Contributing to the freestore’s theme of sustainable living was David “Farmer Dave” Vestol, owner of ECOtopia Garden Design. Sharing tools and information on how to create an environment that sustains all life through permaculture garden design, Vestol also distributed seeds, small bushels of herbs, as well as herb, flower and vegetable seedlings.

Rather than collecting entrance fees, volunteers gave attendees a name tag where they could display whatever skill, service or talent they were willing to share with others, which included everything from energy healer and loan modifier to surf lessons and hugs.

“It’s not about who you are, but what you can share with your neighbor,” said LA Freestore organizer Krisha Hernandez Pruhs. “Through engaging with one another, we learn how we can help sustain each other by trading services and taking money out of the equation. This is especially important when many people are struggling with the money.”

Triple Chicken Foot, Ben Guzman on fiddle and Kelly Martin on guitar, perform old-time music. (Dan Bluemel / LA Activist)

The need for social and environmental sustainability is highly evident when considering a recent report by the Los Angeles County Civil Grand Jury, stating the projected population increase will surpass the county’s ability to export enough solid waste. By 2018, LA County will be exporting 48,000 tons of solid waste per day, “without any new facilities to supplement solid waste reduction,” stated the report.

“The event was organized by no specific group,” said Pruhs. “It was simply an idea that came to fruition. I felt the need was there, and once I put the word out about a freestore in LA, I got an overwhelming response online from community members who were interested in volunteering and developing community.”

Mohammed Elshwahyk and Denise T. Pinto take a break from volunteering and dance for a bit. (Dan Bluemel / LA Activist)

A sustainability studies major at Pasadena City College, Pruhs got the inspiration for the LA Freestore from the Diggers, whom she came across while doing a project on waste and reducing waste stream.

The Diggers, an anarchist guerilla street theatre group, had a permanent freestore where they gave clothes to the community. Many of the patrons were Vietnam veterans who were coming home and in need of clothes. The concept quickly spread to other radical groups of the ’60s and continues today.

Voicing what you are in need of and having your community respond positively, it’s the dynamics of mutual aid.  As much as people at the freestore are encouraged to give, they are also encouraged to take because that is something we are not used to doing, Pruhs said.

“We were expecting to pay for our items, but they explained to us the concept of the event, which seemed kind of foreign to us,” said photographer Daniel Kaufman. “While we were in there, I needed a second reminder because I was just kicking dirt, walking around not really knowing how to handle myself. In the end it seemed like a fair exchange.”

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2 Responses to Eagle Rock gets free alternative to capitalism

  1. Ben Axiom on December 3, 2010 at 6:28 pm

    Wow Lucy!

    Thanks for covering this amazing event and providing background info on the free store phenomenon. For a cinematic moment that captures the spirit of the free store, I recommend “Steal this Movie” which dramatizes Abbie Hoffman’s life and activist career including the Yippie free store and it’s dealings with hostile establishment goons…

    Keep up the great work!


  2. John Steinsvold on February 27, 2011 at 6:47 pm

    An Alternative to Capitalism (which we need here in the USA)

    The following link takes you to an essay titled: “Home of the Brave?” which was published by the Athenaeum Library of Philosophy:


    John Steinsvold

    Perhaps in time the so-called dark ages will be thought of as including our own.
    –Georg C. Lichtenberg

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