Thursday, in two separate actions, several hundred people participated in a march organized by Good Jobs LA, with folks from Occupy LA, SEIU and citizens joining in as part of a general day of action to protest police actions in New York and elsewhere, and planned arrests went off without a hitch; later in the afternoon, a large group from Occupy LA marched back to the Bank of America branch and some folks were arrested. There was no violence in either action.
Occupy LA at Bank of America, 11/17/2011 afternoon:
For the first march, 7am donuts, coffee, bananas and oatmeal bars were laid out for the protestors, news crews were in place and buses arrived with more people to join in. The Bureau of Street Services had closed off intersections and freeway off-ramps to accommodate the permitted march, and of course the LAPD was in place. This was a planned and permitted march which promised a banner hanging from an overpass and tents set up in an intersection, plus scheduled arrests! Wow, party!
The crowd warmed up for about half an hour with a drum trio and a rocking chant leader who rallied the crowd with
Tell me what democracy looks like! This is what democracy looks like!
Hola! Good job! LA!
then the march began. As we turned a corner, Epic Fail Guy (aka Anonymous) and friends unfurled a huge banner reading
We Come In Peace
while dancing and posing. It was dramatic and goofy at the same time. EFG continued his frolicking on the other side of the building and mysteriously appeared on a flatbed truck with the chant leader at intersection of 4th and Figueroa where a huge banner guarded by sheriffs deputies hung from an overpass proclaiming
LA Needs Good Jobs
As promised, there was civil disobedience: Three tents were set up in the center of the intersection and twenty protesters with blue armbands circled holding hands. Eventually a lot of police showed up (it was kinda scary to see the really big schoolbus painted black with LAPD stenciled on it) with riot helmets and batons. But since there were no gas masks or shields, it was clear this was just crowd control.
Some, however, did have the latest fashion accessory, the “green gun” – a rifle with a green stock and strap which indicates it shoots rubber bullets. All of this was very structured. After we all got on the sidewalk, the police broadcast an order to disperse, declaring an unlawful assembly. After the second order, the cops marched in stood in front of the chanting crowds on the sidewalks, holding their batons, while a another group moved in and handcuffed the designated arrestees. First up, an 82-grandmother.
Each arrest was greeted with cheers and lots of news footage–all the local and national networks were there, plus police video teams, and it looked like at least half the crowd had cameras. When all 20 were arrested, the LAPD hopped on their riot-mobiles and sped away. We all began to disperse, though some stayed for speeches.
It was very stylized, regimented, well-orchestrated, though having police at both ends of the street was a little disconcerting, but there was street with sidewalks we could have used to bail if it had gotten weird.
I noticed some of the police officers doing crowd control didn’t look happy, they seemed uncomfortable with the idea that if things went south, they’d have to bonk folks with batons, folks of all races and colors and age, moms holding babies, senior citizens and scrawny artist types with cameras. Luckily, despite one hysterical woman who was shouting that we all needed to get in the streets and was moved away by organizers, the crowd listened to the chant leader who urged us to give the civilly disobedient their space and clear room for the officers.
Meanwhile, Occupy LA has filed a restraining order to prevent the LAPD from dismantling the camp without notice, and Police Chief Beck told the LA Times he is working to negotiate a timeline for the camp to leave. At camp factions have emerged: The rabid frothing anarchists–some of whom have come down from Oakland to radicalize Occupy LA and think, depending on who’s talking, Los Angeles Occupiers need to get off their butts and raise some havoc, get arrested, maybe smash some shit and, like you know man, start the Revolution, get tear-gassed, get their heads beat in, and generally make the eleven o’clock news, ‘cuz like Los Angeles looks like lazy sissies, we gotta represent for the Revolution, man; the more by-the-book activists who see the advantage of staying arrest-free during protests (this week there were five arrests relating to inter-camp issues including assault and lewd behavior), and believe in reformation through action and also in not repelling the average citizen with acts of violence including property damage; and the people who are just hanging out and doing nothing but living in the camp.
Later in the day, Occupy LA took over Bank of America Plaza on their own. There were numerous arrests.
Today I’m going to camp with FDL member Bluewombat to deliver socks, Neopsorin and other supplies from the FDL Occupy Supply Fund. The camp is still having massive food problems; the Health Department has been dropping in to inspect any kitchen Occupy LA uses for camp cooking, and donations of packaged foodstuffs are needed because the camp has lost another kitchen.