OCCUPY L.A. :The Story: 24 Hours until eviction? (PART TWO)By: Brett Redmayne-Titley
“…Way bigger that OCCUPY Wall Street”.
Cairo? Yemen? Bahrain? Libya? No, this is Los Angeles and this crowd is getting bigger, louder, and more anxious. There are nine hours to go and the police are ready. OCCUPY L.A. is also ready.
I have just finished a tour of the OCCUPY L.A. grounds which take up the entire south and north side of the L.A. City Hall. Ominously, the police department is just 100 feet away, across the street.
My guide for the tour is Andrew, a proud war veteran, who insists on anonymity and the protestors call him “Chef”. As a veteran and passionate protester he has been here from the start, which is over 7 weeks. He is involved with security, protection, the sanitation committee, “the raid committee”, and helping provide free meals to all who need them.
As we walk the compound together through a sea of multicolored tents numbering well in excess of 450 Chef tells me of the “tribes” that have formed over the course of OCCUPY L.A. From “the vegans” to “skid row” Chef tells me that there is a place for everyone to find their niche here. His Welcoming Committee does it’s best to find this niche for the many new protestors who have shown up over the last seven weeks. “When we get beans and rice and stuff”, he says, “The vegans get those first. But everybody eats.”
Many that I speak with are proud of their seven week stance and how much they have done with so little. I ask Carlos, a local homeless activist, about the finances for the past seven weeks. “About $25,000” he states. “It’s all accounted for and the books are available to everyone.”
The encampment is large. While it is hard to accurately estimate the number of protestors at this time, it appears that there are approximately 1,000 people. “This is way bigger than OCCUPY Wall Street” says Amy, who spent five weeks at the Wall Street camp. Tents are everywhere with seemingly no room for others. It may seem like an unorganized sea of opinion but amongst this is an implicit order that the crowd is reminded of by participants during the various speeches. They, mostly, accept political discourse as necessary. Discussions are loud but generally respectful. The eviction deadline is only 9 hours away.
Already events today have not gone well.
At a 1:00 p.m. meeting L.A. City Councilman Rosendahl gave a speech to a very vocal yet respectful crowd that dutifully repeated all his statements back to him as confirmation as to what they heard him say. He opened his remarks by saying, “American democracy is of utmost importance to me.”
Sadly, any glimmer of hope that Rosendahl might, actually, champion this movement were quickly dashed.
[L.A. City Councilman Bill Rosendahl expresses his unfettered support for day time Democracy]
Questioned by members of the crowd who lined up patiently for a turn to speak, Rosendahl is consistently evasive, yet firm, in his belief that democracy is only a daytime event and that he wanted the movement to take their democracy home with them tonight. Before midnight. Further responses are similarly evasive and non- supportive. The crowd is not pleased.
Everyone here knows that a conflict with police is just hours away and they are prepared since they have been making plans for this event for the past seven weeks. Almost everyone I spoke with is staying. This does not mean that they wish violence, but they are resolute in staying until the police take away, tonight, their First Amendment rights to assemble and speak up.
At the First Aid tent many are receiving instruction in how to help victims of the upcoming raid. “Who is willing to put themselves at risk to help? If not, this is not for you,” warns the First Aid instructor. She then takes about twenty very willing volunteers through the procedure of treating head and scalp wounds, contusions, abrasions, and of course, pepper spray.
One of my interviewees suddenly returns and grabs me by the shirt. “The Raid Committee meets in five minutes”, he said. “You need to be there”. Not being sure I understood what he meant, he adds, “Defense. You know, the cops.”
As we walk up to the meeting about thirty people are waiting to get started. When they realize I am Press they are very cautious and politely ask me to leave. I tell them that I understand and that I support them. I will be glad to move on. “Sorry, man”, apologizes one of the Raid Committee members, “we have plans for tonight and we have to be careful”. Many thank me for being there and offer to speak with me, privately, later in the day.
As I walk with Chef, he is full of confidence. When asked about people leaving before midnight he is not concerned. “We have members of the military coming tonight, as well as Postal workers and many members of the Teachers Union,” he says. “We’ll be fine. We’ll be ready for them.”
There are only nine hours left until midnight and the eviction. Already the police are distributing reminders of the impending roust. “No person shall enter, remain, stay or loiter in any park between the hours of 10:30 p.m. and 5:00 a.m.”, says the flyer shoved at me by an unfriendly police officer. These flyers now litter the ground.
Meanwhile, Councilman Rosendahl is safely at home. The cops keep watching us from across the street.
As for the OCCUPY L.A. protestors their numbers increase hourly, the crowd grows more restless, but no one is scared.
The beat of the drums gets louder and louder.
Nine hours to go.