At Wilshire and Hope, a lesson in escalation
It began with a corn dog and ended in three arrests.
Last night, a man who only asked to be identified by his first name, Mike, sat on the steps of the Aon Center building at Wilshire Boulevard and Hope Street to eat his corn dog and rest.
Building security told him he could not sit on the steps. It’s private property, they said.
According to Mike, the security guards were rude to him and thus, on principle, he refused to leave.
The Business Improvement District’s private security were called. Mike, who said he was a local business owner, still refused to leave.
“I was just eating something,” he said, pleading to the four security guards surrounding him.
Then the police were called.
“Somebody eating a corn dog on your steps is not a threat,” said Mike, still pleading.
The situation may have ended there with Mike being arrested, but kitty-corner to the Aon Center were a group of occupiers protesting the Central City Association, a downtown business advocacy group. Several occupiers came to Mike’s aid with an expression of solidarity and sat on the steps with him.
As LA’s nightlife bustled by — men in sport coats swaggering to the rhythm of women’s high heels clicking on concrete — the occupiers engaged in their own brand of revelry. It was here, on the private property of the Aon Center, where the protesters demonstrated for the security guards a dance they call the “Booty Tai Chi.”
“Booty Tai Chi! … Booty Tai Chi! … Booty Tai Chi!,” they shouted in unison as they swung their hips to and fro.
Guarding themselves against the onslaught of insouciance, the security guards maintained stoic faces.
“We are here to make you question your job,” said occupier Richard Florence to security.
He called the “Booty Tai Chi” a “robot detector.”
“You can’t say ‘booty’ and not laugh,” he said. “That’s the beauty of it. Anyone who does not laugh is a robot.”
The occupiers appealed to the security guards to leave, reasoning that if they left, then Mike would leave. They called it “de-escalation” and Mike agreed to the plan, but security would not budge.
In the meantime, occupiers brought Mike coffee and a fresh pack of cigarettes.
Occupiers called for group hugs and expressions of camaraderie with the security guards, but they wouldn’t have any of it. They wouldn’t even “Booty Tai Chi,” as protesters had hoped. There simply was no turning back from the inevitable.
The LAPD arrived, first with one patrol car … then two … then five … then nine. Between 20 and 30 officers rushed in surrounding the offenders. Without pause, Mike was arrested along with two occupiers.
“Leave now or go to jail,” said an LAPD sergeant to bystanders.
Private property was safe once again.
Afterward, anger and tension spread through the ranks of occupiers.
Occupier Joe Flores said police are getting tougher with occupiers. He assumed police had been given the “green light” to go after them. He speculated the order must have come from city council or the police chief.
“I think they are the only ones who have authority to allow the occupiers to be harassed,” he said.
Flores said police were wasting their resources by “looking after steps.” He said the whole situation could have been avoided had the Aon security guards been interested in minimizing the confrontation.
“That’s what went wrong and why we had several arrests,” he said. “A security guard didn’t have experience in how to de-escalate.”