Just now, the L.A. City Council unanimously approved a joint resolution to officially "support" the Occupy L.A. demonstration and "demand accountability and results from the banks we invest taxpayer dollars in." (Full text after the jump.)
Cut to late last night, when -- after a three-hour General Assembly meeting run by Occupy L.A. on City Hall's south lawn -- an activist named Julia Wallace passed her smartphone around a small group of people perched on the hillside.
"This is from Yahoo! News," she said, distressed, pointing to a viral article on the screen. "Democrats Seek to Own 'Occupy Wall Street' Movement."
Wallace had tried, during the meeting, to pass Occupy L.A.'s very first "declaration." However, since she received several "blocks," she was forced to take it back to the drawing board. (Hence the heated after-party on the hillside.)
Wallace wanted Occupy L.A. to declare, as an entity, independence from any political party that accepts "mulltimillion-dollar donations" from banks or corporations. In addition, the proposed declaration requested that "those individuals that support those parties refrain from electioneering in the Occupy L.A. space."That last part set off an alarm among the fierce First Amendment defenders in the crowd -- and you get quite a few of those, in a crowd like this -- who felt it would "limit speech, not encourage it."
So Wallace's declaration was blocked and tabled for another meeting. But its spirit, reenforced by a smaller followup debate that lasted into the wee hours, very much represents a new awareness among protesters that they're being painted by the media as cuddled up to the sympathetic, poncho-bestowing Dems on the L.A. City Council. (As well as the LAPD, who have steered clear of the protesters and even dropped off food.)
Their skepticism of the former -- career politicians as high up as Obama who cater to America's wealthiest 1 percent, yet shower Occupy in praise -- has, understandably, reached a more solidified state than that of the unions.
Word has quickly spread around camp of the City Council's corrupt ties with billionaire developers and history of handing out corporate welfare. As one LA Weekly commenter put it yesterday, with links added for reference: "Where's Occupy LA Live? Where's Occupy the Financial District? Hell, where's Occupy the Broad Museum Under Construction Across the Street?"
Which brings us to today's City Council meeting.
Of the dozens of public commenters who spoke before the resolution was passed, the majority heaped praise upon the council for their progressive stance on what many are calling the nation's most promising revolution since the Civil Rights movement.Paul Murufus, a young protester who we profiled here, announced dramatically to the council: "What we want is economic justice. And what you guys have today is an opportunity to be on the right side of history."
You mean, all we have to do is press the "Yes" buttons on our voting tablets and our constituents will love us again? Uh, yes please!
But a spare few (woefully overinformed) speakers brought up a good point: Not only does the anti-big bank portion of this lovey non-initiative not actually accomplish anything, but the council has been sitting on it for over a year and a half.
How convenient, now that Occupy L.A. has directed a national media spotlight onto the front steps of L.A. City Hall, that councilmembers are suddenly so concerned with the bankster sluts they've been happily waking up next to all these years.
Wallace herself spoke up to the City Council this afternoon.
"To act like this is something new is kind of like acting like Columbus just discovered America," she said. And to close out her careful rant, she added, "As long as you receive money from the banks and corporations, you are standing with them."
Another guy pulled out his guitar for a rousing original at the podium. "When cash can't buy your vote," he sang, "we'll believe again in our leaders." (At that, City Council President Eric Garcetti peered down his spectacles, said, "Sir, we can't quite hear you," and moved onto the next speaker.)
Yesterday, ex-LA Daily News editor Ron Kaye blogged the council into a corner, re: the fluffy bank bullshit they've spun into the Occupy L.A. resolution. He links out to a very enlightening reality check from Gary Toebben, a member of the L.A. Chamber of Commerce. An excerpt:
Here is what the proposed banking ordinance will not do: prevent one single foreclosure.
The federal government oversees a heavily regulated banking industry. Instead of looking for ways to spend City resources on a task the federal government is responsible for doing, we suggest the City Council and staff concentrate on facilitating private sector job creation. Having a job is the first step to gaining and maintaining home ownership.
And that's The Business Perspective.
Further watering down the Responsible Banking measure today, councilmembers amended language that would have forced them to vote on it by October 28. Instead, it just has to go to the Budget and Finance committee for consideration by November 21.
In other words, say goodbye to the Responsible Banking measure.
Of course, the great thing about the meeting -- which also happens to be the greatest thing about the Occupy movement, so far -- is the overwhelming amount of involvement and spreading of information.
Beyond packed council chambers, between 300 and 600 online viewers tuned into Occupy L.A.'s live feed of the meeting. (A feed more often populated by up-nose shots of bored dudes in the media tent.) And even before the resolution was brought up -- during everyday debate on plastic bags, city lighting plans, etc. -- about 150 people were watching. Angelenos haven't paid such close attention to local government since the council threatened unionized DWP workers' fat pensions or AEG unveiled its snazzy plans for an NFL stadium downtown.
Bringing us to a more complicated decision for protesters: whether or not to align with unions.
Notorious local rightblogger Andrew Breitbart, for one, has been showing up to Occupy L.A. protests and pointing out all the pushy union leaders in the crowd to his giant audience of eager skeptics. Rumors abound that unions are paying people to populate the campout and marches.
Breitbart's got an obvious agenda, but the whole thing is undeniably eyebrow-raising: A few of California's most powerful unions -- the same ones who put politicians into office with giant campaign donations, then use that leverage to protect their own interests -- are on the front lines of the Occupy stakeout.
Average campers are decidedly split on aligning with these labor cliques. On the con side, California's unions are intrinsically tied into the rigged, moneyed election system that Occupy is revolting against. But on the other, unionized workers are a large (and loud) slice of the 99 percent -- and is it really a bad thing to protect one's modest livelihood by whatever means possible?
That conflict came to a head last Monday night, when workers with Unite Here Local 11 asked Occupy L.A. to attach its name to a protest outside Hotel Bel-Air, where they were recently laid off, on Friday.
One protester who wished to remain anonymous described the scene to us, from his or her perspective, over email:
A similar proposal by ex-Congressional candidate Marcy Winograd -- identifying herself only as a laid-off teacher -- was passed with zero opposition last night."Committee members stood up en masse on the steps crowding the mic as speakers voiced opinion for and against. Several people voiced concerns over union co-opting and support of entities that contribute to either of the two corrupt political parties dominating American politics. One person wishing to speak was forcibly removed by "security" and several others were out-shouted and their blocks ignored after several deliberations.
The chief argument against from blockers being that OccupyLA was never meant to endorse groups but that groups were to come to the occupation grounds to endorse and march with OccupyLA. There was a feeling and unease in the air after the GA adjourned that Democratic Party forces were at work and it caused anger amongst people who strongly identified themselves as pro-worker yet reject the current system entirely."
Winograd asked Occupy L.A. to join her and fellow teachers in a protest outside LAUSD Board of Education headquarters. She told the crowd, with all the vigor of an experienced campaigner, that the "massive underfunding of our schools" amid the state's financial crisis is a scheme to "break the schools up and sell them off to corporations." (Aka, charter schools.) The crowd roared.
What a dream come true for United Teachers Los Angeles and the California Teachers Association! Who, let us not forget, have together proved the single biggest obstacle to reforming the dismal K-12 education system in our state.
Time will tell whether the OGs from the Tea Party were right in predicting the following:
"While the obsfuscation is happening, stooges will infiltrate and give superficial support, focus and financial backing to the targetted movement. In the tea party movement's case, it was the religious Republicans and Koch Brothers. In this case, it's many unions that cozy up to the Democratic Party (the organizations as quasi-human entities, not the members themselves) and Ultra Rich liberals who pretend to care, but frankly do not serve liberators and freedom seekers but rather the interests of some union leaders and the Democratic Party. Democrat, Republican, these parties are all part of the same corporate ruling system."
But as of this afternoon, kumbaya levels are dangerously high. Hell, the City Council even included an amendment thanking the LAPD for their amazing work in response to the protests. Puke. Read the L.A. City Council's full resolution after the jump.