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Occupy L.A.

Occupy L.A. Now Allowed to Camp on City Hall Lawn: Why Are Politicians Sucking Up to Protesters?

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Mon, Oct 10, 2011 at 1:50 PM
click to enlarge One of Occupy's token tipis. - PHOTO BY ED CARRASCO
  • PHOTO BY ED CARRASCO
  • One of Occupy's token tipis.

Update: "City Council Unanimously Passes Occupy L.A. Resolution -- Protesters Struggle to Distance Themselves From Democrats, Unions."

On Saturday night, the number of tents pitched outside L.A. City Hall had nearly doubled from the night before to 256, according to Joe Briones in the media tent.

He and other Occupy L.A. protesters say LAPD officers had been forcing them to move their tents onto the sidewalk every night, because City Hall's front lawn is technically a park, and the Municipal Code makes it illegal to sleep in city parks.

But by Saturday, the group had grown too big. "We're permanently on the lawn now," says Briones. So what gave?

"The plan was to keep moving back and forth until Tuesday," explains Briones -- when the L.A. City Council is expected to pass a resolution supporting the the protesters, and allowing them to sleep on the lawn instead of the sidewalk. "But with our size, it was logistically impossible."

So the growing army of 99-percenters pretty much just decided to stay.

"It wasn't even really an organized consensus," says Briones. "People were just talking within the occupation."

Though someone on the @OccupyLA Twitter account wrote yesterday that "250 tents still asked to move to sidewalk @10:30pm or face arrest," Briones says they've had problems with false information being posted to that feed. In fact, he says, the LAPD "haven't said anything" about protesters' decision to stay on the lawn. (Briones' colleague in the logistics tent confirms.)

click to enlarge Is L.A. City Hall really humbled by the 99 percent? - PHOTO BY ED CARRASCO
  • PHOTO BY ED CARRASCO
  • Is L.A. City Hall really humbled by the 99 percent?

Again, raising the question: Why did the LAPD back off so quickly?

Peter Sanders, spokesman for L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, told City News Service last Wednesday that "the mayor does not have the authority to change Los Angeles Municipal Code, even by executive order." In other words, he wouldn't have the power to let them sleep on the lawn.

But both the mayor and his spokesman have zipped their lips since then, and Briones tells us that City Councilman Richard Alarcon has been "a big ally -- integral in our negotiations with the LAPD."

Don't get us wrong. It's awesome and only awesome that protesters can now settle in more comfortably at 200 North Spring Street. But the strange and sudden willingness of politicking Democrats to get behind this movement -- New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg included, as of today -- has us wondering whether they're not trying to hijack it, much like Republicans did the Tea Party.

LAPD Officer Morales at the Central Division tells us that, as he understands it, police are only in charge of clearing the sidewalk, not the lawn. He says General Services would be the ones in charge of kicking protesters off the grass. However, after getting transferred around at General Services for 10 minutes, the guy at the front desk tells us we need to talk to the LAPD.

Heh. Conundrums! (In case you haven't caught on, nobody wants to tell us what the rules are, or how/why they're being bent for Occupy L.A. -- and that, in itself, is worrisome.)

Now that police aren't an issue, and given all the support that Occupy L.A. has received from city politicians, Briones says the expanding community plans to apply for "the permits to pull off what we want to pull off."

That will include stage shows on the weekend, a "more permanent" camping situation, and "a large P.A. system" for big acts that organizers plan on bringing out, a la Rage Against the Machine's Tom Morello.

Yeah, so -- pretty much the best thing to happen to City Hall since Zuma Dogg.

But we know, all too well, how L.A. City Hall usually responds to sudden, permit-less entities with nothing to offer in return for trampling city green. This random outpouring of love and acceptance is, frankly, unnerving.

Especially since the 15 politicians that sit around the crescent-moon table in City Council chambers (plus the mayor) are guilty of many of the rich-stay-rich practices that the Occupy movement decries. Cutting tax breaks to mega-rich developers? Check. Using public funds slated for poverty/blight to accomodate billion-dollar corporations? Check, and check.

Can't help but wonder -- are protesters cuddling up to the enemy?

Maybe we're being paranoid. And we do think it's awfully sweet that various councilmembers have come around with ponchos and kind words for the occupiers.

The ideal reason for all this accommodation would be that Occupy L.A. has actually gotten so big that police and politicians don't feel they can fight it, and are being intimidated into meeting the group's demands. But in the wise experience of a former Tea Partier who posted a how-to guide for Occupy Wall Street to succeed where he failed on Reddit, this is exactly how a movement goes soft:

Someone in the Democratic Party will feign sympathy for the movement and falsely "non-partisan" entities provide tons of funding and unwanted organization, just as was done with the tea party movement by Republicans. Once people assume that the pro-corporate government operatives are their friends, they will hijack the movement and the threat of your movement will be neutralized.

Here's more where that came from.

Lifting the Veil from S DN on Vimeo.

Dunno. Something to think about. As we said before, the kind of popular support that Occupy is rallying across the country could work wonders on a city politician's campaign. All the hard work is done -- all that's left to do is shake hands with some disenfranchised homeless guy, wave and smile for the cameras.

[@simone_electra/swilson@laweekly.com]

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