A reflection on Occupy LA’s creative living

December 4, 2011

The Occupy Los Angeles encampment began on October 1st. The encampment, which followed the Occupy Wall Street protests, began as a protest against corporate welfare, and what protesters say is the further marginalization of the poor and middle class. There were more than 500 tents on the lawn surrounding Los Angeles City Hall. It became a community of occupiers and visitors that came regularly and included activists, unemployed workers, teachers, children, acclaimed film makers, musicians and many others.

The items people brought, and the signs and art people made, created the cultural and living spaces of the two-month long sit-in demonstration. They were created to cater to the nutritional, hygienic, and educational needs of protesters. Superficially, Occupy LA rallied behind the idea of ending corporatocracy and a rogue banking system, but the spaces created at the encampment became the immediate changes in society that protesters wanted.

Occupiers come from many different backgrounds. Some seasoned activists have been involved with specific causes and ideologies for years and others have been working side by side for years. They spanned from communists and anarchists, yogis, homeless people and many others. The encampment became an embodiment of everything they stood for. The spaces represented a society where people could express themselves freely, where the importance of children, radical education and dialogue were emphasized. All services, items and nourishment were free of charge and communalized.

Following the threat of eviction on the dawn of November 28, many occupiers began packing up their equipment and tents, but many more chose to stay and the services continued to function. On the night of November 29, the encampment was raided by more than 1,500 police in riot gear. Tents were dismantled and items were seized. Nearly 300 occupiers and supporters were arrested trying to protect the space.

An occupiers tent is placed in front of City Hall, on a hill to the right of the steps where the general assemblies took place. As the occupation grew, more tents covered the hill. (Lucy Guanuna / LA Activist)

An occupier makes their tent a home with decorations. (Lucy Guanuna / LA Activist)

The Spring and Temple street corner at City Hall had two bus benches and street posts where occupiers hung many signs and banners. (Lucy Guanuna / LA Activist)

A group of men in their twenties used stencil to spray paint Occupy LA shirts for donations. The donations were used to purchase more supplies and to support the encampment. They had volunteers help them and allowed people to spray paint their own belongings. (Lucy Guanuna / LA Activist)

The portable restrooms at Occupy LA were donated and drained every morning. (Lucy Guanuna / LA Activist)

The Zero Waste Committee at Occupy LA handled all of the waste at the encampment. The city donated recycle, trash, and compost bins. The city picked up the recycling and trash. (Lucy Guanuna / LA Activist)

Classes were scheduled or held sporadically at the People's Collective University. There were no restrictions on who taught classes. (Lucy Guanuna / LA Activist)

The Kids Village was run by the Women and Allies affinity group. They held activities for children, including arts and crafts and story time with parents, or while parents visited the encampment. (Lucy Guanuna / LA Activist)

Occupy LA had social workers present who were available to anybody. (Lucy Guanuna / LA Activist)

The Free Store at Occupy LA consisted of large bins filled with clothes, blankets and shoes that were free for the taking. (Lucy Guanuna / LA Activist)

(Lucy Guanuna / LA Activist)

The signs for the food tent were in English, Spanish and Chinese. Simply put, they read: food. (Lucy Guanuna / LA Activist)

CHEZ OCCUPY: The food tent at Occupy LA received donations daily and served 500 to 1,000 people per day. The tent was monitored daily by the Health Department. It never faced getting shut down. (Lucy Guanuna / LA Activist)

Food tent manager Michelle Watson adopted this kitten the first day of the occupation. She said somebody couldn’t keep her anymore, so she took her. Watson named her Peace. The day this photo was taken, a woman and her veterinarian friend took the kitten to get a check up and to get dewormed, free of charge. They brought Peace back hours later. Many occupiers occupied with their cats. (Lucy Guanuna / LA Activist)

The mediation temple was set up by occupiers who thought spirituality was an integral part of a movement. (Lucy Guanuna / LA Activist)

Incense, candles, pictures, offerings and pillows were brought to the meditation temple and its shrine by occupiers and visitors. (Lucy Guanuna / LA Activist)

Volunteers built what they said was a spiritual space with offerings of flowers, crystals, fruits, vegetables, plants and water. (Lucy Guanuna / LA Activist)

The People's Print Lab silkscreened shirts and bandannas with “Occupy LA” and “99%.” People were able to bring their clothing to get printed on. When nobody was working the print lab, people were able to use the equipment. (Lucy Guanuna / LA Activist)

This tent had a tarp that connected two other tents. They called themselves the Star Tribe. (Lucy Guanuna / LA Activist)

PARKING LOT: A cyclist collective, called Bike Scum, had bike racks where people could safely leave there bikes while they visited the encampment. (Lucy Guanuna / LA Activist)

The encampment had two shower tents. When asked if he bathed there, an occupier said he'd rather not. (Lucy Guanuna / LA Activist)

TREEATRE: The theatre at Occupy L.A. held plays and skits that reflected life at the encampment and the problems faced by the 99 percent. (Lucy Guanuna / LA Activist)

The Occupied Theatre’s stage backdrop. (Lucy Guanuna / LA Activist)

For decoration, occupiers tied shredded cloth to a rope suspended from trees. (Lucy Guanuna / LA Activist)

An occupier relaxes in a hammock placed high in a tree while LA reggae band, the Hashishans, perform. (Lucy Guanuna / LA Activist)

The tent of occupier and artist Will Palomares had blankets, paint brushes, a bike and paint. His paintings, including a portrait of Ghandi, were displayed on the top of the steps where the general assemblies took place. He painted more than five paintings at the Occupy LA encampment. (Lucy Guanuna / LA Activist)

The library at Occupy LA received donations of books and magazines. The topics spanned from radical history to feminism and anarchism to basic math. The library was open to the public and everything was free. (Lucy Guanuna / LA Activist)

A spray-painted whiteboard in front of the library. (Lucy Guanuna / LA Activist)

Certified nurses volunteered at the Med Tent to administer first aid. The tent saw approximately 40 people a day. The tent also tended to homeless people released from hospitals and in need of wound care. (Lucy Guanuna / LA Activist)

On the day of Occupy LA’s eviction, a peace sign was placed at the top of the Christmas tree. (Lucy Guanuna / LA Activist)

The fountain on the grounds of City Hall had been blocked off by 30 foot boards that were painted over by graffiti artists. Some occupiers placed their mattresses in front of one of the walls. (Lucy Guanuna / LA Activist)

Bike Scum, a cyclist collective at the encampment, had been growing vegetables since late October. (Lucy Guanuna / LA Activist)

MOVING DAY: On Nov. 27, throughout the encampment, people packed their belongings in advance of the city's proposed eviction to ensure they weren't seized by the police. (Lucy Guanuna / LA Activist)

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3 Responses to A reflection on Occupy LA’s creative living

  1. Mr. Gilbert on December 5, 2011 at 7:58 pm

    Amazing photos and descriptions. You really painted a clear picture… Good work!!!!

  2. Big c on January 15, 2012 at 6:41 pm

    Fuckin awesome yo

  3. Todd on November 11, 2013 at 5:15 am

    Really good job. The collective space was amazing. We should do it again.

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