Occupy LA meets on eve of occupation
’Twas the night before occupation and not a banker was stirring … but activists in Los Angeles are.
Tonight was the final meeting of Occupy Los Angeles before they enact their plan tomorrow to “occupy.” They will meet at Pershing Square in the morning, march along Broadway to City Hall by noon. And stay.
Occupy LA is a solidarity movement in response to the Occupy Wall Street demonstration occurring in New York. Although the “occupy movement” has been sketchy on their exact demands, they are voicing their displeasure over corporate influence in politics, Wall Street greed and facing austerity measures while one percent of Americans reap ever greater wealth.
Meeting in Pershing Square, the group hashed out last minute details before the big day. Issues of food, sanitation, artistic expression and many others were brought up. Much discussion was spent on what to do in instances of police brutality, an issue that has troubled peaceful protesters in New York.
As with all Occupy LA meetings, they are an exercise in participatory democracy, which can be frustrating for some. One member walked out of the meeting in frustration when much time was spent discussing what to do in instances of police violence. However, the meeting went on and wrapped up in its scheduled two hours.
Mark Lipman, who has 20 years experience in organizing, said the process can be frustrating at times, but is necessary while the young movement goes through its growing pains. Although the process may be slow, he sees the “occupation movement” growing – Occupy LA has over 7,000 people following them on Facebook.
“I’ve never seen this kind of energy before,” he said. “This has the potential to grow into a world changing movement.”
Tonight’s meeting was larger than previous ones. Approximately 115 people attended, many of them for the first time.
According to organizer Mario Brito, Occupy LA has some support from city officials. The group went before City Council this morning informing them of their upcoming presence at City Hall.
“To our surprise, City Council members started putting their thumbs up,” he said.
According to Brito, Councilman Richard Alarcón gave his support. When the possibility was raised that demonstrators could be arrested for camping out at City Hall, Alarcón told the LAPD to back off.
“[He] said, ‘I will be there that night. So if you are going to arrest somebody, you are going to have to arrest me first,’” said Brito.
The group discussed marching into LA’s financial district along Grand Avenue, but poor visibility on a Saturday caused members to opt for Broadway. Some have expressed concern that marching onto City Hall might send the wrong message. Others don’t think the overall meaning of the demonstration will be lost.
“It’s not hard for people to make the connection between Wall Street, the banks and the shit that is coming down on them,” said Lipman.
Occupy LA organizer Cheryl Aichele, said the LAPD seems respectful of the group’s First Amendment rights and more concerned about code violations. Aichele got involved with Occupy LA because she saw it as an opportunity to create change in society.
“I’m very excited about what’s going to happen tomorrow,” she said. “I just hope it goes smooth and everyone is safe.”