My Visit to Occupy Los Angeles

The next time I take a day off from writing to participate in a global revolution, I’m going to do a bit more research first.

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.

Smile for the iPad

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.

Turns out, this is the article I should have read in advance, “END THE FED March = You are being co-opted!.”  Ugh, I hate being co-opted!

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.

Stay strong Occupiers! #thewholeworldiswatching  #solidarity

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



4 thoughts on “My Visit to Occupy Los Angeles

  1. It is one thing to read it in the newspapers and quite another to read it written by you. From the other side of the world at that.
    So I can only imagine what it must be like to actually BE there!

    Antara, you raise a good point. You remind me that “news” sources controlled by corporations have potentially dubious motives behind their messages. Now, with bloggers and tweeters, we can all share broader ranges of views/opinions/information. Good for you for reading the papers, though. Do you have a favorite? ~R

  2. Well…I read our national daily (times of india) and our state newspaper (telegraph).
    But that is for my morning pleasure :-P I just go to google news and read what is happening at the moment.

    And you are right. It is always great to get views directly from people. Plus it makes it feel more real, as compared to a column full of facts (which is necessary too, though).

    Reading the news was the last thing on my mind when I was your age (and for far too much of my life at any age). You continue to impress me, Antara. :) ~R

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