Occupy L.A.: With Lease Offer, City Hall Hopes To Turn A Movement Into A Non-Profit Group

L.A. City Hall is taking some heat for its offer to give Occupy L.A. some office space for the low-low price of $1 a year.

The offer -- which the Occupiers seem likely to reject -- says a lot about how City Hall views the Occupy movement.

Essentially, city officials seem to believe that the movement can transform itself into a non-profit service organization. Because that's who gets $1-a-year leases from City Hall: non-profits.

But is that what Occupy L.A. wants to become? An anarchist version of the YMCA?

Hard to imagine.

The city already subsidizes the leases of about 100 non-profit organizations, including daycare centers, Boys and Girls Clubs, the Canoga Park Chamber of Commerce, and the Museum of Contemporary Art. So, from the city's perspective, it's not so unusual to offer another subsidized lease to one more group.

But Occupy L.A. is not just another group. It's a spontaneous, leaderless, radically democratic, communal protest camp. Now sure, it does offer food to homeless people, so in that sense, it's a service organization. But that's not its primary mission.

And if Occupy L.A. were to accept City Hall's offer, it would come with strings attached. For starters, Occupy L.A. would have to file as a non-profit. Then there's things like liability insurance. They would also have to report to city bureaucrats, and to prove that they were providing some "public benefit." (And no, "Calling attention to the plight of the 99%" probably wouldn't cut it.)

All in all, kind of a drag.

It's obviously up to Occupy L.A. to decide whether to take the offer. But taking it would change the character of the movement in a pretty dramatic way. Seems unlikely that most -- much less all -- of the Occupiers would go for that.


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