‘Occupiers’ march through financial district
Thousands of protesters marched through the Los Angeles financial district yesterday to protest an economic and political system that favors only one precent of the population.
Gathering in Pershing Square, demonstrators took turns at a megaphone sharing the reasons they were protesting. Student debt, wealth inequality, the lack of health care for all, unemployment, growing poverty and corporate tax breaks were but a few reasons mentioned.
One protester said she closed her bank account and opened a new one at a local credit union. She urged others to do the same.
“Citibank, you are fired,” she said.
Longtime activist Blase Bonpane also addressed the crowd. He reminded those gathered of the achievements of FDR in reversing the Great Depression, such as the passing of the Glass-Steagall Act, which reformed banking practices and regulated speculation. (The act was repealed in 1999.)
“We have to remind our current president that he has to follow this example,” he said. “We will forget the fact that he didn’t do anything in his first term, if he just gets busy now.”
As protesters left Pershing Square at around noon, their ranks appeared to swell. At one point during the march, five city blocks were filled with demonstrators. LA Activist estimates as many as 5,000 people attended the march; some organizers put the figure between 5,000 and 10,000.
Part of an “international day of action” and an expression of solidarity for Occupy Wall Street, the march was coordinated globally with demonstrations occurring in London, Seoul, Tokyo, Sydney and other cities.
Police kept up a minimal presence with bicycle cops running patrols and one LAPD captain walking ahead of the peaceful demonstration.
The march ended at City Hall where Occupy LA established its sit-in demonstration on Oct. 1. There, a stage was set up for speakers and entertainment.
Maria Elena Durazo of the AFL-CIO of Los Angeles spoke to the demonstrators. On Friday, Oct. 14, Occupy LA protesters held a solidarity march for laid-off workers of the Bel-Air Hotel. Durazo said that labor unions demand what all workers want, which is to have labor “treated with dignity.”
“Men and women have a right to retire with dignity and not have their pensions stolen from them,” she said. “Everybody has a right to a good paying job, because we work hard for that job.”
Peter Joseph, founder of the Zeitgeist Movement, spoke to demonstrators providing a broader, more philosophical view. Joseph produced the “Zeitgeist” film series that received widespread attention on the Internet. The movies advocate a resource-based economy based on technological know-how.
Joseph reminded the crowd not to simply address the symptoms of rapacious capitalism, saying the issue at hand was structural in nature. He said people are not likely to question their economic and political systems, because they were born into them, and thus compelled to uphold the status quo.
“We tend to assume that the systems we are born into are empirical,” he said. “We might look at politics and government as we know it and assume it is valid. Why? Because that’s all we’ve ever known. Is it any measure of pure logic? Probably not. It’s simply tradition.”
Joseph said that supporting an economic system simply because it is the only one people are familiar with is flawed and violates the “emergent nature” of humanity. He said people’s traditional values concerning politics and economics are conflicting with people’s awakening of where humanity needs to be.
“This is the beginning of change of values and structure that has been needed for a very, very long time,” he said.
Occupy Los Angeles is now in its 16th day. On Oct. 12, LA city officials passed a resolution supporting the sit-in demonstration. The website Occupy Together reports there are now 1,845 cities around the country and world participating in the “occupation movement.”
[For related stories about Occupy Los Angeles, click here.]