At Wilshire and Hope, a lesson in escalation

June 10, 2012

Private security guards surround Mike, who asked to be identified only by his first name, as he refuses to leave the steps of the Aon Center building in downtown. He was later arrested. (Dan Bluemel / LA Activist)

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.

Occupiers join Mike in solidarity as they show off their “Booty Tai Chi” dance. (Dan Bluemel / LA Activist)

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.

Mike (center) enjoys the company of occupiers as they show their support for him. (Dan Bluemel / LA Activist)

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.”

(Dan Bluemel / LA Activist)

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.

(Dan Bluemel / LA Activist)

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.

(Dan Bluemel / LA Activist)

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.”

While Mike and two occupiers were arrested for sitting down on private property, across the street a man sits down on private property. He was not arrested. (Dan Bluemel / LA Activist)

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13 Responses to At Wilshire and Hope, a lesson in escalation

  1. Michael Paz Soldan on June 10, 2012 at 1:46 pm

    It is a shame “it” all had to come to this. Just because a guy decided to eat a corn dog and stand up for his rights against the wanna be security cops payed by the CCA.

    “Things” have to change peacefully and with consciousness and honor from all sides.

    The LAPD, in the downtown Los Angeless’ 9th district are a joke, especially the the LAPD who patrol the SKID ROW AREA.

    Power to the peaceful

  2. D. L. Girard on June 10, 2012 at 3:40 pm

    I always felt that L.A. was a police state, but it has gotten worse.

  3. yestament on June 10, 2012 at 5:08 pm

    Yes. He defended his right to sit on private steps and eat a corn dog. His parents must be so proud. Seriously. In the beginning, Occupy had potential to affect change with the banks who punish all of us. Too bad now the “movement” has disintegrated into a bunch of whiney, phoney anarchist babies. Go back and live with your parents already!

  4. Dan Bluemel on June 10, 2012 at 5:46 pm

    Yestament, … Just for the record, the man who refused to leave the steps of the Aon Center building was not an occupier, and as far as his age is concerned, he is very much an adult.

  5. Lee Rogers on June 10, 2012 at 7:22 pm

    He was a business owner, so ‘yestament’ you probably love that. Do you live with your parents?

  6. Lee Rogers on June 10, 2012 at 7:23 pm

    why not research what the occupy movement is doing now before writing us off?

  7. yestament on June 10, 2012 at 9:14 pm

    I am researching you. You joined an org called LACAN which to my knowledge has not been able to name a single homeless person they’ve helped off to a better life. Occupy camps out in skid row and on the wilshire steps. No message to any of us other 98% (we’re not 1% and we’re not the other 1% speaking for the 99% with no message.) I follow you constantly just hoping an intelligent, clear message will be presented. And yes, I know corn dog guy was not an occupier. I read the article.

  8. Alan Shelton on June 11, 2012 at 6:47 am

    I am Mike’s dad. And I am proud of him. He is a great son and loves running his company in downtown LA. I did have to stop and wonder. Since they arrested him on the public steps of the building, does that mean that anyone on those public steps entering and exiting during regular hours are also subject to arrest?


  9. Sarah on June 11, 2012 at 9:30 am

    It’s so silly that these security guards thought eating a corn dog on steps was enough to call the cops about. It’s even more ridiculous that the cops actually CAME to stop a dude from eating a corn dog. It’s lovely that the occupiers who didn’t know this guy from Adam came over to help him out. And I love “booty” dances. What’s sillier, the dance or being arrested for it?

  10. AON worker on August 14, 2012 at 3:23 am

    My company is a tenant of the AON center and I work the overnight shift. This was not a security guard paid by anyone but the building management. This was not a security guard assigned to keep protesters off the steps. This was a security guard doing their job and keeping my workplace safe. Mike was on private property, plain and simple. Security and police have every right to remove someone who is trespassing on their property.

    To answer your question, Dad, yes they will remove anyone who is not conducting business from the property. Anyone sitting on the stairs is ALSO asked to remove themselves from private property.

    This had nothing to do with the protest across the street. This had everything to do with mob-mentality and the protesters clear hatred of the police. (Hence their giant “F**** THE POLICE” banner they are now proudly displaying.)

  11. Realist on August 14, 2012 at 8:52 pm

    The laws of trespass are simple, really… In the context of a generally-open public building, you’re generally able to be on the property. HOWEVER, once you’re, you leave. If you fail to comply, you’re in violation of the law, and subject to arrest.

    So far, an astounding number of comments on this blog assume he had a legal right to continue to reside there after being asked to leave. He didn’t, and there’s no two ways about that.

    When the protestors from across the street entered into the situation, they did not serve to de-escalate, but actually escalated the situation further — there’s now there’s several people vs. just two security employees.

    Given the amount of violence surrounding protests in general lately, the security guards no doubt felt threatened by the sudden joining of a pack of protestors…

    For all the employees knew, one or more people in that group may have been armed… there’s simply no way for them to have known, but in order to keep their own persons secure, they have to assume the worst when an situation escalates and act accordingly.

    At which point, security did the proper thing and called upon the police, in order to (1) secure the rights of the building owner and (2) ensure the security of their own health.

    It’s not a matter of “just eating a corn dog”, but it’s a matter of safety.

  12. Realist on August 14, 2012 at 8:52 pm

    “HOWEVER, once you’re, you leave”

    Was supposed to read:

    “HOWEVER, once you’re asked to leave, you leave”

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