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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Trouble at the Hard Block Cafe - Day 26 @ #OccupyLA

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Let me say at the outset that from what I have seen of the occupation movement, it has becomes so dynamic, so energized and been met with such wide support among the people that nothing can defeat it if it doesn't defeat itself.

However I fear that it is on the verge of doing just that. There is big trouble in the Hard Block Cafe!

Hard Rock Cafe, concept by Clay Claiborne, graphic by Mike SteeleThe Occupy Los Angeles General Assembly split into dueling factions Wednesday evening as a large number of occupiers who felt alienated by the highly structured, long and boring, but largely irrelevant GA , came in and took over the mike, overthrew the process, and made it an open mike session. The GA had been led by a facilitation committee that was far more concerned with process than content. This is a facilitation committee lead by a new core group. The original core group of facilitators that used the process to create Occupy Los Angeles have moved on to other areas. This may be "billed" as a leaderless movement but not only is there something to be said for leadership, there are a lot of advantages to consistent leadership, IMHO.

The original Wednesday GA started on the south side of city hall with the solar stage. After it was overthrown, the facilitators, for a while, reconvened their GA on north stairs before returning to the open mike crowd on the south stairs in the spirit of unity.

That there was a split at all is a sign of the deep divisions and serious problems that have cropped up at Occupy Los Angeles. About the same time this was going on, diagonally across First & Main from city hall in the LA Times building, they were posting this to their website:
Even in Los Angeles, where city leaders have greeted the demonstrators warmly, there are signs of protest fatigue and increasing anxiety about what happens next.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who earlier this month had ponchos distributed to rain-soaked Occupy L.A. protesters, said Wednesday that the encampment next to City Hall "cannot continue indefinitely."

Villaraigosa has instructed city officials to draft a plan for another location for the demonstration. He decided the camp could not stay after Los Angeles County health inspectors expressed worries about the cleanliness of the camp, and because of concerns about the condition of the lawn and trees.

After seeing the occupation grow to fill every green space around city hall as it approaches its one month anniversary, it is not surprising that the city and police are starting to look for reasons to evict the occupiers. That is not a problem. That is expected behavior. The problem is that more recently Occupy Los Angeles has allowed some real substance to creep into those charges and that endangers the public supports that are the barricades of this occupation.

In an occupation, a group holds a space against an opposing force. Militarily speaking, the LAPD is a thousand times stronger than the protesters but this is not a military occupation. This is a non-violence occupation and it draws its strength from its moral authority and its public support. If it allows those pillars to be undermined, the occupation may be fatally weakened.

Since it was established almost a month ago, the peace and publicity that have been created around Occupy Los Angeles has allowed it to attract a much wider audience than the activists that originally started it. Many are becoming politically active for the first time and most have contributed positively to the movement. But not all. Some have been attracted by the music, free food and festival atmosphere that has accompanied an encampment that hasn't felt the need to gird itself for a police attack.

The problems that have developed in the past week include intimidation of women and others, drug and alcohol use, stealing, defecating in inappropriate places and making noise late at night. These rogue elements have been allowed a free reign because many of the occupiers don't believe in any rules or form of government and they don't believe in excluding anybody that is part of the 99%. Added to that is the consensus model decision making process where a single "hard block" can veto a decision.

Occupy LA has also become the home of a strong party element that likes to play music and drums at all hours. Many of these occupiers aren't involved with the committees or other work of the occupation and less than half of the occupiers have been attending the general assembles. Part of the reason for that is the GA has failed to address the main problems facing the community.

For example, the major discussion of the GA on Tuesday evening was an individual's proposal that Occupy LA reject work with the major political parties, a proposal that had already been discussed at three previous GA's. It is still not clear whether the point of that resolution is to make PDA or Ron Paul supporters feel unwelcome or to stake out a position in preparation for the next election, but that discussion went on for more than an hour, and the very serious problems Occupy LA now faces, and threaten it's very existence, were hardly mentioned. Neither were the events in Oakland that should serve as a reality check for those on the LA facilitation committee that have spent hours debating whether to allow three days to resolve a hard block, or four.

The police took down Occupy Oakland Tuesday morning in a very brutal fashion. Hundreds of cops came in riot gear gear at 5am using tear gas and stun grenades, torn down the tents and arrested 85 occupiers. Wednesday, while the Los Angeles general assembly was dividing in two, Oakland occupiers were again being arrested. In Oakland, they are also using "safety and sanitation" as an excuse to end the occupation. Three hours after they raided the encampment, Oakland Mayor Jean Quan issued this statement:
Many Oaklanders support the goals of the national Occupy Wall Street movement. We maintained daily communication with the protesters in Oakland.

However, over the last week it was apparent that neither the demonstrators nor the City could maintain safe or sanitary conditions, or control the ongoing vandalism. Frank Ogawa Plaza will continue to be open as a free speech area from 6 am to 10 pm.
I don't know if there is any substance to the complaint that "neither the demonstrators nor the City could maintain safe or sanitary conditions." I am not in Oakland nor have I been paying attention. If there was some substance to them, then the demonstrators themselves have given the city the opportunity, no more, the obligation, to take back control of the space.

I am in Los Angeles and I do know that the problem of "maintaining safe and sanitary conditions", along with problems associated with drug and alcohol use and excessive noise are gnawing problems for Occupy Los Angeles. If they are not controlled by the occupiers, the city council will come to regret their resolution of support, the LAPD will revert back to normal form as they gear up to clear the grounds around city hall, and the Committee to End Police Brutality at Occupy LA will get what they have longed for from the very beginning but so far have lacked, a real justification for their name.

Some activist from Occupy LA don't believe in any rules at all. They respect neither city laws nor the consensus of Occupy Los Angeles as expressed by the general assembly. They are completely opposed to getting permits and even talking to the police. Some of their views are expressed on the website Unpermitted LA. There they complain about "the leadership of Occupy LA, especially concerning their collaboration with police" and similar concerns.

They also call for the "Immediate dissolution of the Security Committee and recall of the current Police Liaisons." They see the Security Committee as acting as the police for Occupy LA and extensions of the LAPD, saying "The police liaisons currently are acting in the interests of the police rather than the movement and are not acting transparently." They cite an example "in one instance [security] went into the tents of comrades who intended to defy police and SC orders to move to the sidewalk, without their consent."

This refers to what happened the very first night of Occupy Los Angeles on October 1st. The deal we had then negotiated with the LAPD and the GSPD, that controls the ground around city hall, was that we would not be arrested for being on the grass till 10:30pm but between then and 5am or so, we would have to move to the sidewalk or face sprinklers and arrest.

That first night we had a limited number of tents, maybe 60, so a hundred or so campers staying overnight. I argued, as did others, that it was important that we comply with the police order at that time, not as a matter of principle but as a matter of tactics. I said that when we had a thousand occupiers here, we could refuse to move the tents off the grass and make it stick, but if we refused to move them that first night, well, the morning news would have been all about the arrests, and possibly violence, and that would be a big set back.

It's been almost two weeks now that we stopped moving the tents off the grass, just about the time the number of tents pasted two hundred, although the official police stance on this has not changed. During the second week of Occupy Los Angeles, the city council pasted a formal resolution of support, a very rare thing among the occupations. We have gone more than three weeks with no arrests at Occupy LA and no real problems about tents on the grass 24/7 except for the growing mummers above the costs of resowing the lawn.

All of this has allowing for the tremendous growth and growing regional influence of Occupy Los Angeles but I believe all of this would have been jeopardize had protesters stayed on the grass that first night. I argued that we weren't here to protest park hours. We had bigger fish to fry. Fortunately the general assembly supported that view on the first night and the decision was made that we should end the meeting and move to the sidewalk by 10:30pm.

However some individual anarchists disagreed and having failed to win the GA to their position, decided they would go rogue and defy everybody and keep their tents on the grass anyway. They stood on their individual "right" to refuse all governess and do whatever they could get away with. They were itching for confrontation with police and didn't mind destroying Occupy LA to get it.

Whether these anarchist elements admit it or not, their views have come to support these rogue and party people that threat much of what has been accomplished so far. The fatal problem for the occupy movement is the view that no one can be excluded, even people who don't agree to follow the rules.

If the main functional demand of the occupy movement is seen as the "right" to create lawless spaces in our cities, then they will lose most popular support and then they will be rolled up.

On Sunday this email was forwarded to the Occupy LA facilitation committee together with the note above it by a supportive neighbor:

This email was posted to the Higgins Building (Second & Main) list serve today, and I wanted to make you guys aware of it. We live on the south side of the building, so don't hear the stage from our unit, but others might and might call, as suggested.

Curious as to whether it is true that the amplified stage is "rogue," and whether there is any way to control the level of sound so that it is more resident-friendly.

Thanks for all that you are doing for all of us.
Subject: [higginsbuilding] Noise 411 of Occupy (but not Occupy - more the Solar Stage)

Hey all - I know no one wants to be like "omg Occupy noise indefinitely?"

Welp - I am and have learned a new thing through my research and talking to folks.
There is a solar powered stage, the "noise/trouble makers" of Occupy - who Occupy LA actually do not align themselves with. And there apparently is tension and controversy about this rouge illegal stage.

I've asked both Occupy and the Solar Stage to move thier stuff to Temple St.. OLA complied but Solar Stage has met with illogical and militant resistance.

#1 it is illegal for any loud PA much less music and yelling over speakers - or even without a speaker system.

#2 The Solar Stage are doing a disservice to the actual movement.

So let's do this. Call the non-emergency number 877 275-5273 and tell them you are tired of hearing the Solar Panel "Power of Green LA" stage all day and night. Tell them it's a stage that Occupy has - in print - disassociated itself from. Tell them you know full well that their noise is against several city ordinances and that (whether you either support, or don't support the protest) - that Solar Power stage is illegal and a hostile stage and really needs to move to Temple St. or just get shut down.

More power in numbers folks. Whether you support or don't support what's going on across the street. The OLA group wants to be good neighbors and are unable to deal with some pinkertons in their camp who don't want to be good neighbors.
Occupy Los Angeles can't govern itself, through the general assembly or any other process, whether based on consensus or not, as long it accepts people who refuse any government at all, even self-government. And if Occupy Los Angeles can't govern itself, it will be dissolved by the capitalist government just waiting it's chance to end our occupation of this space.

Occupy Wall Street faces a similar dilemma. They also have a problem with drummers. This is how Time described the Occupy Wall St. general assembly process in the critical hours before the police were expected to move on their encampment last week:
Ten hours before uniformed police officers had pledged to clear Zuccotti Park, Occupy Wall Street's home since its founding a few weeks ago, the demonstrators debated, discussed, voted on, blocked, formed consensus, blocked again, and then again formed consensus — about playing drums.

This, the night before what many thought would be a defining moment for Occupy Wall Street and the protesters' attempts at a modern-day revolution, and hours before the 7 a.m. NYPD mandate to wipe Zuccotti Park clean of the movement's tents and signs and its pamphlets and purple-arm-banded protesters. But for 45 minutes, the most important issue was a proposal to limit drum circles.

It seemed trivial. It seemed silly. It seemed like a waste of time, time that could be used to prepare for what seemed inevitable as the sun rose: mass arrests, chaos, possible violence, injuries. While the city eventually called off the “cleaning” early this morning, nobody knew that last night.
While discussion of the impending police action on the movement's unofficial home did take place, most of debate revolved around what seemed to be a crucial decision about drum circles, even though it wasn't clear they'd have anywhere to drum the following day. When I left, after the General Assembly was adjourned, it was still unclear when they were going to drum.
A few days ago it looked like this issue was about to put an end to Occupy Wall St. This was being circulated:
October 24, 2011
End of #OccupyWallStreet: conflict over drummers
this just in (from folks working with community relations):

OWS is over after Tuesday:

Friends, mediation with the drummers has been called off. It has gone on for more than 2 weeks and it has reached a dead end. The drummers formed a working group called Pulse and agreed to 2 hrs/day at times during the mediation, and more recently that changed to 4 hrs/day. It's my feeling that we may have a fighting chance with the community board if we could indeed limit drumming and loud instrumentation to 12-2pm and 4-6pm, however that isn't what's happening.

Last night the drumming was near continuous until 10:30pm at night. Today it began again at 11am. The drummers are fighting amongst themselves, there is no cohesive group. There is one assemblage called Pulse that organized most of the drummers into a group and went to GA for formal recognition and with a proposal.

Unfortunately there is one individual who is NOT a drummer but who claims to speak for the drummers who has been a deeply disruptive force, attacking the drumming rep during the GA and derailing his proposal, disrupting the community board meeting, as well as the OWS community relations meeting. She has also created strife and divisions within the POC caucus, calling many members who are not 'on her side' "Uncle Tom", "the 1%", "Barbie" "not Palestinian enough" "Wall Street politicians" "not black enough" "sell-outs", etc. People have been documenting her disruptions, and her campaign of misinformation, and instigations. She also has a documented history online of defamatory, divisive and disruptive behavior within the LGBT (esp. transgender) communities. Her disruptions have made it hard to have constructive conversations and productive resolutions to conflicts in a variety of forums in the past several days.

At this point we have lost the support of allies in the Community Board, and the State Senator and city electeds who have been fighting the city to stave off our eviction, get us toilets, etc. On Tuesday is a Community Board vote, which will be packed with media cameras and community members with real grievances. We have sadly demonstrated to them that we are unable to collectively 1) keep our space and surrounding areas clean and sanitary, 2) keep the park safe, 3) deal with internal conflict and enforce the Good Neighbor Policy that was passed by the General Assembly.

Whether or not you personally feel that the support of the community board and local residents and their reps is needed to maintain our occupation, many of us believe that maintaining Liberty Square (aka Zuccotti Park) as a flagship and nerve center for our movement right now is in fact critical to our efforts that are much bigger picture, longer term, more revolutionary than the internal conflicts that are consuming too much energy right now.

We need to take this seriously, and be clear that if we can't deal with conflict and self-organizing then we are facing eviction very soon (this week), and the allies that helped turn out mass numbers at the last one will not be around this time, nor will the press be supportive. Additionally, Bloomberg released a statement a few days ago that said that he / the City plans to crack down on any violations as of this week. Once we lose community and ally support at Tuesday's vote, the door is wide open for an eviction.

What to do? We need an all hands-on-deck clean-up and everyone sharing responsibility for the Good Neighbor Policy, including enforcement of 12-2pm and 4-6pm drumming hours. (While recognizing that the community board has been firm that they can only support 2 hrs/day of drumming). We should also start serious conversations internally about what this movement might I look like without Zuccotti Park / Liberty Square. How can we set ourselves up for continued organizing and momentum without an active occupation? I don't write this to be dramatic, it's a serious question. If so much of our organizing time currently (for many of us, 20 hrs a day) is going to putting out fires and maintaining the space, what does it look like if we lose the space?
That same night the call went out "supporters needed at Zuccotti Park to enforce Good Neighbor Policy" saying they desperately needed people to come and help them stop the drummers. At the Occupy Wall St. general assembly that night, the group of drummer-protesters organized as Pulse agreed to limit their drumming to four hours a day. The community board had been asking for a two hour limit. On Wednesday night, an open conflict with the community board was adverted that might have given the NYPD the excuse they need, when the CB agreed to settle for the four hour limit.

The problem for Occupy Wall St. now is that many of the drummers are not with Pulse, don't come to GA's, and don't recognize any limits. If the occupations can't find better ways to control what is done under its banner, it they will meet with an untimely end.

However, there is reason for optimism. In L.A., a wonderful thing happen with the drummers Saturday night.

Friday night, when we showed the first film in our Occupy LA film series, the drummers were so loud it was hard to hear the movie. That, plus the fact that the GA ended so late, was the reason we put off showing my film Vietnam: American Holocaust, until Saturday after the GA.

Saturday the GA ended on time, but still there was the problem with the drummers so Tyrone had the movie volume turned up loud so that we could hear. Then the drummers seemed to get louder so Tyrone turned up the volume more. For a while it felt like a struggle between the movie and the drum circle which called into question the ability to even show films or do anything that required relative quiet.

Then about 30 minutes into the movie, the drum circle got quiet. They had moved down to the corner. As far as I know, nobody talked to them (from the movie), they just resolved the conflict by moving the drum circle. Obviously moving the movie would have been extremely difficult once it had already started.

And in spite of these and other "growing pains," the occupation movement in Southern California continues to expand with OccupyUSC, Occupy LAUSD, Occupy Venice, Occupy Longbeach, Occupy Riverside, Occupy San Diego, Occupy Pasadena and Occupy OC all coming to life in the past few weeks.

Thu Nov 03, 2011 at 12:45 AM PT: There was a raid on Occupy Portland on October 30, 2011. As has been threaten elsewhere noise complaints was used as the excuse:

Portland Police officers arrested 27 people early this morning in Jamison Square Park in Northwest Portland. 25 people were charged with Interfering with a Police Officer, Criminal Trespass in the Second Degree and Disorderly Conduct in the Second Degree

20-year-old Benjamin Anderson Harris and 28-year-old Benjamin Burson were charged with Criminal Trespass in the Second Degree and Interfering with a Police Officer. They were arrested prior to the arrest of the 25 people seated in Jamison Square.

The 25 people peacefully arrested sitting in Jamison Square Park were charged with Interfering with a Police Officer, Criminal Trespass in the Second Degree and Disorderly Conduct in the Second Degree.

Numerous noise complaints from area residents were called into the Bureau of Emergency Communications (BOEC) throughout the evening.

The arrests were made after the 25 refused to leave the park after several instructions to leave the park were given by police and Park Rangers. Jamison Square Park closes at 12:00 a.m.

In Los Angeles, things are getting better. The disruption and turmoil surrounding the recent general assemblies have served to bring the some important contradiction to the force so now they are being worked on from all sides.

On Monday, the general assembly was finally able to gain consensus for a procedure change that allows proposals to be passed with a 90% vote. This was hard to get because it required a 100% vote but now that it is in place, it should go a long way towards mitigating the "hard block" problem.

A new occupier's march and general assembly has been organized which combines an 8:00am local march and protest with a 9:00am occupiers general assembly designed to deal with some of the practical and most pressing problems of the encampment. The first thing they are considering is a code of conduct and methods of enforcement.

Steven and the occupiers with the Keeping It Real Affinity Group have started their own "People's Assembly" in which they are experimenting with a more informal format. While their efforts are largely in revolt against the general assembly, the continue to participate in the GA and discussions continue on how to unify the efforts.

Training and planning for what to do when the police come in is starting to move although the LAPD and the city are saying they have no plans to move us anytime soon.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Sirte falls, Mummar Qaddafi captured

Follow clayclai on TwitterAs the last pockets of resistance have been put down in Sirte and Libya is finally freed of his 42 year rule, Libyan TV is reporting that Mummar Qaddafi has been capture in a car leaving Sirte.

Mussa Ibrahim, Ahmed Ibrahim and Ali Alzubeidy Altawerghy were also caught in Sirte.

Horns are blowing all over Tripoli as we now await an official report from the NTC.

18-year-old Ahmed Shabani is reported to have killed Qaddafi. [Picture]Video from Al Jazeera Arabic
Watch live TV from Misrata here WSJ Live Blog: NATO will soon declare end to mission. More later..
Click here for a list of my other blogs on Libya

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Ten Thousand March with Occupy LA

Saurday was the biggest day yet at Occupy Los Angeles as it began its third week. Around noon, between 10,000 – 15,000 people, according to official LAPD estimates, marched from Pershing Sq. through the financial district and then to the occupation site at city hall. With so many protesters, the police closed the streets for the march, which was very spirited with people from all over Southern California and what is more important a mix of people that was incredibly representative of South California. As this is not radio, I will let the 14 pictures in the slideshow below the fold speak for themselves.

The march ended at Occupy Los Angeles which now involves over 300 tents occupying almost of the grassy areas around city hall. Thousand of people stayed around for the celebration, dancing music, committee meetings, film screenings, yoga and more.

As city hall is closed on Saturday, we had the run of the place. The north, west and south stairs operated as three stages all afternoon and into the night. For the afternoon, Spring St. on the west side of city hall was blocked off to traffic so that people could rally there. A portable stage and sound system was set up in the middle of the street and that was the main forum for post march speakers and musicians.

Many people came to Occupy LA this Saturday apart from those that came for the march. Word of mouth is really building support for Occupy LA as people come to visit and tell their friends or come back with their families. The effects of this could really be seen this weekend. This driving force has been multiplied by the good local TV coverage it has received from the beginning. OLA has been a regular item for the local TV news for a week now. Some of the local news people like the 99% concept and they have learned that they can come to city hall at any hour night or day and do a live spot with great visuals and interesting people to talk to. Tonight I saw the guy with the "No War But Class War" sign in the background of the live spot for two channels tonight. He gets around. The General Assembly on Saturday night was one of the biggest so far and must have had more than 600 people in attendance, with many more thinking of better things to do on a Saturday night. Thousands of people were still at Occupy LA late into the night. While a small ultra-left element disagrees strongly, most occupiers see the police people as a part of the 99% to we have consciously cultivated good rapport with the beat cops. With the city bureaucrats and the LAPD brass there are still some issues but those are not likely to break the peace in the immediate future because the bigger it gets and the longer it has been seen to operate peacefully, the hard it will be for them to take down Occupy Los Angeles by force. LAPD continues to say that the occupiers must move the tents to the sidewalk each night and the campers have not complied in the past week although they did move tents to make room for the farmers market on Thursday. So while they continue to press that issue with the OLA city liaison committee they have so far not threatened to use force in an attempt to enforce that and so for now relations with the LAPD remain good. They stopped traffic for the march and they blocked off Spring St. for the crowds but there was no "show of force" and no arrests. Occupy LA may not have any "leaders" but it does have a solid core of people that are working damn hard to see that things get done. There has also been sharp political struggle going on underneath all of this that I hope to have occasion to write about latter because, as usual, the greatest danger to Occupy Los Angeles comes from within. If you want to get a clue as to what I am talking about, I would refer you to the facebook page formally known as "End Police Brutality at Occupy LA" now renamed, and the unrepentant unpermitedla. The people would like to do an "Italian Job" on Occupy LA but that ain't going to happen.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Los Angeles City Council votes support for Occupy LA

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Contradicting the trend in New York, Boston, Washington, DC and other cities where the growing occupation movement has been met by official hostility and police violence, today, on the twelfth day of the people's encampment at Los Angeles city hall in opposition to the domination of the big banks and in support of Occupy Wall St., the Los Angeles City Council passed a resolution to promote responsible banking by the City of Los Angeles and in support of Occupy Los Angeles.

The resolution with the title "First Amendment Rights / Occupy Los Angeles / Responsible Banking Measure" was sponsored by Richard Alarcon and Bill Rosendahl and was seconded by five other councilpersons, virtually assuring it of passage.

The agenda item for this read as follows:

CONSIDERATION OF RESOLUTION (ALARCON - ROSENDAHL - ET AL.) relative to the City's position to support the First Amendment Rights carried out by “Occupy Los Angeles” and addressing concerns regarding the Responsible Banking measure.

Recommendation for Council action, SUBJECT TO THE CONCURRENCE OF THE MAYOR: ADOPT the accompanying RESOLUTION to SUPPORT the continuation of the peaceful and vibrant exercise in First Amendment Rights carried out by "Occupy Los Angeles" and URGE the City Departments responsible for completing the implementation plan associated with the Responsible Banking measure (Council file No. 09-0234) that was approved by the Council on March 5, 2010, which would address some of the concerns of the "Occupy Los Angeles" demonstrators by demanding accountability and results from the Banks we invest taxpayer dollars in, to bring the Responsible Banking measure for a final vote to the Council by October 28, 2011

After dozens of public comments by members of Occupy LA including me and other citizens, the endorsement of many City Counclpersons, and the haggling over the date for the final vote on the banking measure, the council passed the resolution by a vote of 11 to 0 with a couple members abstaining.

Occupy Los Angeles has been rather unique in that as compare to the other big city occupations, it was won a high degree of acceptance by the city and hasn't been plagued by the hostility of the LAPD. This has allowed the encampment to develop as a peaceful place where a certain level of permanency and organization has been able to develop.

Occupy Los Angeles now takes up all the lawns of city hall, north, south and west, although we will free up the south lawn for the farmers market on Thursday, and we no longer move from the lawn to the sidewalk at night. The last time we did that we occupied all the sidewalk on four sides of city hall and then some. Now with 300 tents and counting, it's simply impossible.

This permanency has allowed a certain order to merge. On the inside north lawn, the food tent, welcome tent, donations tent and library stand where they have been for a week. On the other side of the stairs you'll find the medic's tent, and the media tents, and the generators buzzing behind are being replace by solar panels. The north stairs is where we used to hold general assemblies. Now those have moved to the larger south stairs with the bigger PA system. This is where Danny Glover spoke and Tom Morello played last week. But the north stairs now has it's own PA and operates as a kind of auxiliary stage with music and free speech all day. There is also a lunchtime speaker series. Today it was NY Times best selling author Marianne Williamson. The north lawn is crowded and somewhat chaotic. It already has the character of an older community. The south lawn is like the suburbs, more ordered and with room for a couple hundred more tents.

In spite of this resolution's passage today, some senior officers of the LAPD are rumored to be uncomfortable with the current arrangement, so while this peace with the city may not be a permanent peace, it is good while it lasts because that plus the mainstream media coverage Occupy LA has received from day one has furthered an incredible growth of the occupation movement in Los Angeles.

When Sarah Brennan from Richard Alarcon's office first contacted me on September 30th, the day before the occupation began, it was to promote his responsible banking measure. They called me because they didn't know anyone else with Occupy LA. I don't know how they knew me but I had been writing about it.

I told them that the responsible banking measure sounded fine but that where we really needed his support was with the LAPD. At that time the police were saying that we couldn't sleep on the grass and we couldn't sleep on the sidewalk. I said Saturday night we are going to have 300 plus people with tents and sleeping bags planning to sleep somewhere and none of us can do anything about that now.

I told them our fight was with Wall St. not city hall or the LAPD and to please don't make it about that. Please find a safe way we can exercise or first amendment rights and camp out at city hall. Then I called my own Councilperson, Bill Rosendahl, talked to Arturo Pina in his office and gave him the same pitch. I also put both offices in touch with Mario Britok and Cheryl and others from Occupy Los Angeles who were already at city council that morning talking to members.

A meeting between the LAPD, the city attorney and city council staff went very late that Friday but the result was a "legal" occupation in which we have been able to march and stay on city property even though initially we had no permit to do so. While there have been several dozen arrests for civil disobedience at our actions, in the 12 days since then we began, there have been no arrests at Occupy LA.

Today the city council resolution put a kind of official seal on what we have already established on the ground.

I have been explaining the advantages of this situation to some of the younger revolutionaries among us who can't wait for action with the police by using the example of the phenomenon of "legal" Marxism that V.I. Lenin spoke of in turn of the century Russia. One of the best things about Occupy LA is that there is a lot of time to talk.

More pictures from Los Angeles City Council:

Mario Britok speaks to City Council

Councilmen Alarcon and Parks confer. Parks ultimately abstained.

Banking Industry representative looks unhappy with the vote.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Occupy LA - Day 8

It is sunny and mild, mid 70's with a slight breeze. In other words, a typical Southern California day. What is not typical is what is going on around city hall. Hundreds of tents have been set up on both sides of city hall. In the morning work shops were meeting at various locations in the city hall park, musicians were playing at different locations and someone was leading an exercise group. Over 300 protesters stayed in the Occupy Los Angeles encampment last night to support their brothers and sisters in Occupy Wall St. and today many hundreds more are wandering around, most making their first visit to Occupy LA. It always feels like Spring in Los Angeles but lately, it's been feeling like the Arab Spring.

Saturday was a huge day here as Occupy Los Angeles enters it's second week. It began last Saturday with a spirited march of over a thousand people from Pershing Sq. to City Hall. At city hall they pitched tents on the larger south lawn and held the first General Assembly of the occupation. As last weekend moved into the week days they were obliged to move from the south lawn to the smaller north lawn to make room for a movie shoot followed by a farmers market. This actually proved to be fortuitous because the small area made it look like more people than it did in the larger space but by Friday the north lawn was crowded with more than 120 tents and the occupation was running out of room. On Saturday they knew that they could move back to the north lawn but that didn't mean giving up the south lawn so now they have city hall surrounded with more than 60 tents already on the north lawn with no apparent diminution of the number on the north lawn.

Occupy Los Angeles made the news on on the very first day because the tactic of stonewalling Occupy Wall St. was running out of time and the bust of seven hundred protesters on the Brooklyn Bridge gave them a story they could run with, but that meant they also had to cover Occupy LA locally from the beginning. After that there has been a steady stream of reporters and TV crews at the encampment.

It has almost gotten to the point where a segment on Occupy LA was required for a comprehensive local news broadcast and national news has also been obliged to cover the protest. This has meant that the movement has gotten a lot of exposure in the greater Los Angeles area, and the response from the public has been amazing. City hall sit among four heavily traveled intersections and the honking of horns in support has been none stop. Around 5:30, when many committees have scheduled meetings it can reach a level that makes the meetings all but impossible.

For many working people this Saturday is the first time they have been able to visit what the whole city has been talking about and the occupiers have planned quite a day for them. Saturday is also the first day that the protest is permitted. The lack of permit hasn't stopped us from camping on the grass or using a PA system to expedite the larger meeting but they have moved to the sidewalk at night as requested by the police, but the permit does allow them to get serious about amplified sound and music.

That allowed for musical concerts on the south steps of city hall in the afternoon, the highlight of which was a concert by Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine.

Before that Margret Prescott of KPFK introduced Danny Glover and friends.

Danny Glover gave a rousing speech that had the crowd cheering, a crowd that had grown to several thousands by then.

But the biggest event of this Saturday was the biggest General Assembly that Occupy Los Angeles has had to date. The result of all the work and struggle that has gone to refining the process in the last twelve Gas was tested tonight.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Occupy LA - Day 7

Friday was the tenth anniversary of the U.S. war on Afghanistan and in the morning the Interfaith Communities United for Peace and Justice led a big march against the war endorsed by almost fifty progressive organizations in Southern California, including VFP, PDA, ANSWER, NLG, AFL-CIO, & Code Pink. ICUPJ was formed right after 9/11/01 and is just about as old as the war.

The demands of the march were to stop the wars and fund jobs. They asked that all troops and private contractors be removed from Iraq and Afghanistan this year, that torture be stopped both at home and abroad and they called for an end to drone attacks targeting civilians in Pakistan and elsewhere.

The march started with interfaith prays and gathering at La Placita Church, 535 N. Main St. and proceeded to the downtown Federal Building where a rally and planned civil disobedience were held. On their way, the marchers passed city hall where Occupy Los Angeles joined them. Then hundreds of people from Occupy Los Angeles and ICUPJ rallied in front of the federal building on Main St.

The speakers included actors Mike Farrell and Mimi Kennedy and Professor Cornell West as well as representatives of the organizations supporting the rally. Tavis Smiley and Cornell West paid a visit to Occupy Los Angeles latter in the day. Keith Olbermann was expected but never did show up.

At the end of the rally 14 members of ICUPJ were arrested in a well orchestrated act of civil disobedience. There were far more police at this rally than had been around the city hall encampment because they had been notified of the plans, but they hung back through most of the rally. When the time came, they moved forward and told everyone who didn't want to get arrested to move to the sidewalk. Those that planned to be arrested formed a line across the street and linked hands. Then the police video teams moved forward to record each arrest as the protester was informed of her or his rights, placed plastic tie-wrap handcuffs and led to one of two waiting police vans. Jim Lafferty from the National Lawyers Guild observed everything to make sure no ones rights were violated.

All night all day, occupy LA; All night all day, occupy LA; All night all day, occupy LA

We are the 99%; We are the 99%; We are the 99%

All night all day, occupy LA; All night all day, occupy LA; All night all day, occupy LA

Journalist from around the world are beginning to show up. Cindy Sheehan and Camp Casey were so successful, in part, because there were a lot of bored reporters that had to be in Crawford, TX anyway to cover Bush on vacation and it hasn't hurt OccupyLA one bit that it is about a block south of the international satellite truck parking lot that is covering the trial of Michael Jackson's doctor.

Finally, there are lots of meetings. The General Assembly meets at 7:30pm every night and usually go to 9:30 - 10:30pm.

Breaking out of third person for a bit, I have a facilitators meeting at 5:30p and then the GA @ 7:30p which lasted till 9:30-10p, then a brief facilitators summation after that. That's my standard drill. A number of other committees have meetings at 5p or so. There are a lot of committees and most people are on one but the meeting times vary.

About 300 occupiers in 120 tents are spending the night these days but I'm not one of them. The Metro 733 bus has a stop two blocks from my place in Venice and has another stop at city hall and I make use of it. When I get home I finish my diary and sleep. I want to finish this one before 2am.

Wednesday night I was in a very important meeting that didn't break up until after 1am and I missed the last bus. Fortunately a comrade drove me back to Venice. But that meeting went a very long to resolving some contradictions that had been boiling under the surface of every previous occupation GA.

As a result the last two GAs have gone much smoother and gotten more real work done in less time. This is important because our 7:30p GA is more and more being attended by new people and the media and so we want them to be spirited, interesting, efficient and as tension free as possible. We want these meetings to example our best and invite the 99% in. The more sticky problems can be taken up by the people most concerned at other times, at 1am if necessary.

We are all operating on very little sleep and a lot of energy. Occupy LA is developing at an incredible rate, in every sense of the word. I can't even keep track of the unions that are supporting us. Supplies are coming in from all over the place. We got another 4G account and are setting up public wireless. More and different workshops are going on or being planned. I plan to lead one on Linux, probably next week. Today I heard Sony is letting us use a 40ft. editing trailer and someone else is setting up satellite downlink so we can see ourselves on the news at Occupy LA.

And we have already planned actions out to October 16th. We plan to be here for a while.

Be sure to visit the Occupy LA website for daily up dates and more. Today is Saturday and it's going to be huge. I'd better get some sleep. I've got to be back there in six hours.

Friday, October 7, 2011

UPDATED: RIP Steve Jobs Occupy LA - Day 5

Rest In Peace Steve Jobs

It never rains in Southern California but it is raining today, another test for Occupy Los Angeles. It rained off and on all night and is expected to be rainy for the next few days with tomorrow being the worst. It should be clearing up about the same time the permit for amplified sound and full use of the city hall park comes into effect. Also by then, the film shoot on the larger south lawn will be over and they can move back there. That will be good. They need the space, protesters keep arriving and Occupy LA is already outgrowing the smaller north lawn. Soon they will need both.

The whole occupation movement is growing here in Southern California as it is elsewhere. Visitors from the new Occupy Orange County came here yesterday, as did some people planning Occupy Longbeach and at noon today, students walked out of classes to begin Occupy USC.

But today it's water, water, everywhere. Fortunately there is plenty of coffee to drink. Everything is wet. Tents, sleeping bags, clothes, signs. It's enough effort just keeping electronic equipment dry.

Everybody is wet, holding meetings under the shelter of the larger tents or huddling inside the smaller ones. So the city council meeting turned out to be a bit of lucky timing. Normally it's hard to look forward to sitting on a hard, but dry bench in the city council chamber. Today it might have been a good idea even if Occupy LA wasn't on the agenda.

The choice of city hall for the Los Angeles version of Occupy Wall St. initially was a controversial one because their chief target is not the city, but now most occupiers think it perfect. It is in the heart of downtown Los Angeles and so pretty much equal distance from everybody. The financial center on Grand is only a few blocks west with Wells Fargo, First City National, Deloitte and Touche and two Bank of Americas as handy action targets. To the east is the county jail and the Federal building and just down Spring a block south is the county courthouse, complete with the Michael Jackson international press corp and satellite truck round up. They've even discovered a CVS pharmacy and a bunch of fast food places in the underground shopping center across from city hall.

On Monday, "In a strongly worded declaration, the L.A. county AFL-CIO has endorsed the “Occupy” protests that began in New York and have spread to Los Angeles and other cities." according to the Hollywood Reporter that went on to explain, "The group -- the L.A. County Federation of Labor -- is an umbrella group of AFL-CIO locals and other unions. Among its affiliates are AFTRA, SAG, Teamsters and Los Angeles based IATSE locals."

The big event Wednesday was a City Council resolution in support of Occupy Los Angeles being sponsored by Councilpersons Richard Alarcon, Eric Garcetti and Billy Rosendahl. Rumor had it that Jan Perry and Bernard Parks would oppose as payback to Alarcon for his vote on an unrelated matter

Occupy Los Angeles members filled the council chambers till some were standing in the rear. Many signed speakers cards and were able to speak. They generally made very good comments in the two minutes allowed to each speaker.

While people were speaking, someone from the city started passing out copies of the resolution signed by 7 out of the 13 councilpersons, which told us it would pass, now the only question was by how much.

It didn't actually pass today because the council never votes on a resolution at the same meeting at which it is introduced but the vote to set put it on Tuesday's agenda passed unanimously, which is a good indication of how things will go.

The city council has also sent a request to the mayor asking him to issue an executive decree allowing us to stay camped on the lawn 24/7 instead of having to move to the sidewalks every night.

These decisions indicate that cooperation they have so far received from the city and the LAPD will continue, at least for now. The lack of conflict and intimidation has made it a place were people feel safe in visiting even with their families and the overall atmosphere means that they get hooked on the first visit. The coverage from the local media, and even the crews nearby covering the Jackson doctor's trial, means that word is going out much wider than it could by relying on alternate media alone. So the people are coming to join them in increasing numbers as are the food and supplies from the community that will sustain them.

The stars seem to be aligned for Occupy LA even if they can't see them tonight because of the rain clouds.

Excerpts from the city council resolution appear below and the entire thing in image format can be found here. A link to the text if promised and will be posted here when we get it:
Whereas, in cognizance that one of the factors spurring recent violent revolutionary protests in the Middle East is high income inequality, though the sobering reality is that income inequality in the United States is even higher than that of some of the countries torn asunder by violent revolution; for instance, according to the C.I.A. World Fact Book, the United States Gini coefficient, which is used to measure inequality, is higher than that of Egypt’s pre-Revolution.

Occupy LA - Day 6

President Obama's Press Conference couldn't seem to stay way from the subject of Occupy Wall St. It came up time and again. Obama mentioned it and then Jay Taper of ABC News brought it up again. MSNBC is running interviews of people at the various occupations including Occupy Los Angeles. Fox News 11 was live at Occupy Los Angeles just before the noon march on an undisclosed bank with SEIU. It's beginning to feel like the story the major media wouldn't cover is becoming the story they can't stop talking about.

Occupy Los Angeles was once again bathed in sun light as the rain cleared up and the camp dried out. More and more occupies have been arriving everyday to the point that the north lawn is getting crowded with tents. Tomorrow the film shoot and the farmer's market will be over and the occupation moves back to the more spacious south lawn.

While the move from the north lawn had been forced by circumstances and the city, it turned out to be another thing that worked well for Occupy Los Angeles. Anyone who has ever held a small event in a large hall, knows how that can convey the feeling that not many people showed up even through turn out was greater that expected. The north yard was actually more suitable for their numbers in the beginning, now it is bursting at the seams with occupiers and tents. It's very crowded and that makes for good visuals. The move tomorrow will allow them to spread out a bit and make room for new occupiers. If the present rate of growth continues, both lawns will be packed by the end of October.

The renowned actress Rosanna Arquette toured Occupy Los Angeles in the morning, was interviewed on the live stream, did photo ops with some of the occupiers and told them why she was there, "Greed is not the American way."

Food contributions are backing up a the donations keep coming. Hot meals are being prepared by the food committee and served several times a day. Somebody really knows how to cook because the meals are delicious. There is also a medical tent and while no one has mentioned any injuries or sickness, a lot of campers are losing their voices.

The media team is making sure they are well covered by uploading new pictures and videos on an hourly basis. Their equipment and capabilities are also improving as they are also starting to receive donations. The are a lot of media people around all day now, and most are not part of the media team or OccupyLA. A realization is developing that what is happening here is historic and part of a transformative movement so now it seems that everyone wants to get the story, alternative and major media alike.

There is also an on-site print shop that not only does the usual flyers and signs can silk screen T-shirts and just about anything else that is brought to them.

More and interesting facilities are being created every day. The lending library keeps growing with contributed books, a bike repair depot was setup and today a bike share program for occupiers has been established with a half dozen donated bike.

Today KPFK, the Los Angeles Pacifica Radio affiliate also setup a tent and Margret Prescott did a live broadcast from Occupy LA.

On advantage of the city hall location is that it sees a lot of traffic all day long. Some protesters are always standing on the curb with signs. The honking of cars, trucks and buses to now becoming so constant that most are growing use to it. Clearly Occupy LA has hit a responsive cord among the people.

Workshops and affinity groups are being established for a wide variety of interests.

Local actions are at the heart of what Occupy LA is about and today they had a spirited march at noon with about 800 SEIU members and occupiers from city hall to the bank on 7th and Figueora. There was a spirited rally outside the bank. Eight protesters went into the bank and set up a tent. They were arrested.

Last night some people met into the morning to work out some differences and deal with some bad feelings. This afternoon the facilitation committee met as usual before the General Assemblies and learning from the experiences of the first five GAs. The result was one of the most successful General Assemblies ever.