Occupy L.A.'s Dilemma | Features | Los Angeles | Los Angeles News and Events | LA Weekly
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Occupy L.A.'s Dilemma 

Protesters share enthusiasm and disenchantment, but need unity to survive

Thursday, Oct 27 2011
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Brito says his own attendance was a no-brainer, noting the hotel is owned by the sultan of Brunei. "No one can argue that the sultan is not part of the 1 percent."

But who are the 99 percent? It's a harder question. Occupy L.A. is populated by Democrats, libertarians, socialists and anarchists — not to mention 9/11 Truthers, Oath Keepers, End the Fedders, sound-money guys, and a sizable contingent of homeless and mentally ill people looking for free food. What do they have in common? How can they grow into a powerful political force?

Over several nights, the general assembly continued to debate whether it would be appropriate, in some cases, to go to a 90 percent "rough consensus." No decision had been reached by press time. The debates took up a lot of time and seemed to go nowhere; meanwhile the group was not talking about the crimes of Bank of America or how to overturn the Citizens United decision.

click to flip through (9) PHOTO BY TED SOQUI - Occupy L.A.
 

"There's too much bullshit going on, and we're losing people," one young man said at a G.A.

The Demands and Objectives Committee continues collecting, categorizing and sorting the group's various demands.

"The demands are coming," says Matt Rolufs, a committee member. "Nothing says there's a time limit for this."

Indeed, some folks are talking about being camped outside City Hall for years.

At this stage, it's hard not to be equivocal about the movement. On the one hand, through sacrifice of time and comfort, a relative handful of people has brought the issue of income inequality into the mainstream debate. On the other, it's been chaotic and somewhat directionless, and subject to a lot of narcissistic rambling.

The protesters themselves have experienced both sentiments.

On the north lawn, Stephen Zeigler, 41, sat outside his tent, which is covered in flags and protest signs. He's an advertising photographer, but work has been slow since the recession. He had engaged in a solitary protest earlier this year, meditating for three hours outside Bank of America.

He was inspired by the movement's initial spirit, but he was wary of it being hijacked.

"It's heartening, and frustrating," he says. "It's inspiring, and annoying." Asked what surprised him, he offers, "I didn't expect so many infiltrators."

Like who?

"Democrats."

Zeigler had pitched his tent on top of a sewer grate, and beneath it was a nest of cockroaches. That was OK, he says. His dharma name is cockroach. They're actually very clean.

"I had to pull a gnarly one off my head the other night," he says. "I said, 'Fuck you. I know we're brothers, but you're gnarly!' "

Reach the writer at gmaddaus@laweekly.com

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