I finally dropped in on The Occupy Movement with more than a blog post and a Facebook solidarity profile pic. Last Tuesday, November 22nd, I took my body to the scene of the action. Yeah, yeah, I know … pretty late.
Which Occupy? Downtown Los Angeles. This is what I saw. (Bold or blue = link here, you know that, don’t you?)
At first, it was fun; I played anthropologist for an hour or so, wandering quietly absorbing the sights.
Those who say the park has become Skid Row II are adding a negative spin. I saw campers camping, artists painting, librarians shelving, people sitting in a circle — deep in discussion (I speculate they were preparing for that night’s GA which would feature deliberation over the city’s offer of office space; although, I was too intimidated to get close enough to really listen — proof that journalism is not for me).
Before long, I made my way around to the rally side of the park. It happened to be End the Fed Day — as in ending the Federal Reserve. There would be a march commencing within the hour. Equipped with a hand-drawn map of the city in my pocket (marked with the locations of The Central Library and my favorite downtown hotel lobby bar — The Biltmore) — getting lost was impossible, I couldn’t resist the idea of marching along side the crowd. I’ve not educated myself about The Federal Reserve at all, but I rationalized, I’ll abstain from carrying a sign.
All the good signs were taken, anyway:
It was pretty easy to tell the difference between long time Occupiers and people, like me, who were having a field trip.
My favorite moments occurred before the march while we congregated in front of the mural, just after I got a big whiff of patchouli oil.
Way to a grown up deadhead’s (i.e. my) heart? Patchouli oil and dreadlocked twenty-somethings batting hacky sacks from ankle to ankle. Occupy L.A. has both. These characteristics may be credibility destroyers in some spheres — to me, they’re credibility enhancers.
Between the drying up Day of the Dead Altar, and the guy with the knitted tassel cap standing reading a book while his cohort spray painted butcher paper with the focus of a zen master, between the two libraries, and the giant plastic bin of free feminine hygiene products, nostalgia had colored me impressed. (Notice I did not mention the woman with two dogs who sat saran wrapped inside of a transparent orb-like structure.)
After the amplified explanations about why the Federal Reserve (hey-hey-ho-ho) has to go, a woman started yelling “Mic check. Mic check.” This was the moment I’d been waiting for. A chance to be inside the people’s microphone! She/we made an announcement about the fact that there would be a meeting after GA that night for any and all who wished to participate in the writing of a song.
The writing of a song. Be. Still. My. Heart.
Soon enough, we took to the sidewalks and headed for The Fed. I heard the beating of drums (sweet), enthusiastic chanting (expected), and one annoying-as-all-hell woman with her own megaphone inflicting “Power to the People” with the self-appointed authority of a karaoke singer sans DJ.
Just as I decided I needed to break free from the sonic range of the mega-soloist, I noticed that most of the signs around me had been pimped out with extra signs. Signs people had kept hidden until after we’d traveled a few blocks: Ron Paul signs.
Photographers were everywhere. I imagined this making Flickr and YouTube, and I (ego ego ego) would appear to be marching for Ron Paul!
I kept going for a couple of blocks, sticking to the margins. All I could think was, this march has been highjacked! (See 9/25/11 point of consensus: We will not be affiliated with any political party.) I realized I could, and would, break away from the crowd. I started running. I kept up with some of the long lens photographers scoping out better angles.
I ran without tiring, thinking, wow. I came to join the nonconformists, and now I’m escaping from them as fast as I can.
I made some distance between me and the pack, but the gap kept closing when I’d stop for red lights. At one intersection, I found myself waiting next to half a dozen police officers on bikes. I said, “I’m really proud of the job you all have been doing with this thing. Thank you.” They just looked at me like I was deranged. [See 12/7/11 update below.]
At the next traffic light, despite the Ron Paulians gaining on me, I took a moment to update my FB status; said I’d be heading to the Central Library.
Confession: I turned left instead — into The Biltmore. My lemon drop was calling. Nothing like an afternoon of rebellion topped off with happy hour where the bartender coddles you with cashews and a phone charger. Andy met up with me and we called it a date.
Ultimately, I was a tourist for an afternoon in my own city. I would never claim to be a participant in this movement; I simply haven’t done the work, haven’t made the sacrifices. Those who are taking active roles have my respect and gratitude.
As I post this, Occupy Los Angeles is entering into its most challenging 48 hour period yet. I’ll be following the Twitter feed and livestreams from my safe vantage point. And I should probably do some reading about the Federal Reserve while I’m at it.
UPDATE 12/7/11 – Yesterday, Patrick Meighan, a writer for Family Guy, posted a detailed account of his experience being arrested on 11/30 at Occupy LA. The police were needlessly brutal. His statement is consistent with others I’ve read from that night of how the cops behaved like sadistic thugs.
November — NaBloPoMo — Day Twenty-six