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Occupy Los Angeles: Storming the Financial District

October 04
02:58 2011
The Occupy Los Angeles protest march into the downtown financial district kicked off with a whimper instead of the bang I’d become accustomed to. After Saturday morning’s initial gathering in Pershing Square, and then the rumbling line of protesters snaking through downtown L.A.’s streets and receiving hundreds of horns, fist pumps, and cheering people, I had expected a real performance for this afternoon’s financial district foray.

Occupy Los Angeles swarms City Hall

After the protest, I broke off from the Occupy L.A. group as they headed back to their camp at City Hall. I had forgotten where I parked my dirty white car, and I hoped to find it in time before the lot closed. I stood on the sidewalk with a bunch of decent looking people. I kept telling myself, Go straight, you’ll find your car, it’s just up ahead. But I hardly believed myself.

Suddenly, a fat wad of protesters holding signs with “We are the 99%” and “Tax the rich” and “End the Federal Reserve” and “Castrate Wall Street” rolled through the intersection two blocks ahead. We all watched them march forward. Had that been the group I’d been protesting with? I didn’t recognize any of them, but maybe they’d circled back for another go.

A scrawny, scruffy young black dude with a backpack started talking and gesturing with his hands. He was the kind of character you see on TV being thrown into the pavement by officers of the Law. “Nothing ain’t ever going to change,” he said, “as long as them damn Republicans be in office.” I laughed, and he looked at me, seeing an ally. The decent looking people standing around gave us space. The light turned green, we walked forward. Ahead of us a man carried a briefcase. A woman walked haughtily in high heels. “It’s true,” the black dude said, “and those people up there protestin, that ain’t going to make one bit of difference as long as we being bought and sold down here. Nothing’s going to change, no matter what they say.”

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I nodded and encouraged him to say more. “Obama ain’t going to help us none. He got his hands tied, but even then he’s got no backbone. That nigger isn’t going to give us no help down here. He don’t give two shits, we’ve seen that,” he said shaking his head and looking at me out of the corner of his eye. “I want to support a Democratic black president,” he said, and then he whipped his right arm out in front to make the point, “but that nigger ain’t got his head screwed on right.”

I hear you, I said. If ten million of us get angry and get out there, maybe they’ll have to listen, I said. He was still talking, “Everybody asks me, ‘Why you readin the paper, why you wasting your time with that shit,’ but I like politics, man, gets me fired up.”

Like a strong cup of coffee in the morning, I said. “Without the fucking cream and sugar,” he said. We were on Fifth and Olive. My stop’s coming up, I said, but bless you! Take care of yourself, man. Maybe some day we can listen to Freddie Gibbs and talk politics. “Yeah man,” he shouted as he walked away.

I hurried to Fourth and Spring to get my vehicle. I thought about the protest, and about Occupy Los Angeles’ progress at City Hall since I’d last seen it two days ago. The encampment looked well-established. There weren’t nearly as many people there as Saturday afternoon’s jamboree. I had been expecting the Hall’s lawn to be covered with angry people.

Like a small community, one tent was set up for first aid, another for serving food, and another to welcome newcomers. Individual tents dominated the landscape. If this revolution doesn’t happen, and this effort falls apart, I thought while looking at the grass, all we will have managed to do was destroy the City Hall lawn.

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I had come to love the intensity and excitement, and that high level on Saturday had me gushing in an earlier post about how I had a lot of hope for America. Today, I still held hope, but not as much as I had two days ago.

For the financial district protest, we were a small band of ragged protesters until we met up with the teachers’ union. Suddenly, we had a formidable crowd. Our line of people shouted, chanted, waved posters in the air, until we came to the bridge of the 110.

They held banners over the edge for the rush hour freeway traffic. The hundreds of honking horns were encouraging. Whenever the disgruntled message against Wall Street is put out to the people, I’ve noticed, they react positively. They know how awful our economic situation is in this country. The people are pissed, to say it simply, and that is the only hope for the movement. For the upcoming revolution.

Most Americans, it seems, are afraid of losing their jobs, or their homes, or are worried about a relative’s economic state. The energy for massive protest and revolt is out there, and the Occupy Los Angeles people are slowly but surely tapping into that. The best outcome for them, I think, would be to stir awake millions of Southern Californians. People feel empowered when they see other people marching and angry over the same issues.

Our new expanded group flowed to the financial district and planted itself onto the steps of the Mellon Bank Center. The stiff ‘security’ straightened up in their suits and started talking into their radios. They appeared unprepared for this flash mob protest. They locked their doors, but a handful of the teachers from the union sneaked in and sat down behind the glass doors the rest of us were pressed against.

A few of the guards came outside and walked past the chanting mob. “Banks got bailed out, we got sold out!” everybody said. One of the bigger members of security spoke into his radio, “Some of them got into the bank.” Whatever he said after that I couldn’t hear. The protesters made sure the guard knew that he was one of them — one of the 99 percent, and not one of the elite. I’m sure he heard, but his face did not change and he made no visible indication of having registered the information.

Across the street a few LAPD officers watched the protest. The Occupy Los Angeles crowd, along with the teachers, held a mock economy lesson and went over what makes for a strong economy, and why America’s financial system was broken. I didn’t pay attention.

We marched back to City Hall. I silently parted ways and took a side street. Just before I ran into the scraggly down-and-out political junkie, I saw a few officers standing around a cafe talking. Ahead a few blocks, the Occupy L.A. march bobbed past and auto drivers honked their horns.

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The police were discussing the movement. I walked very slowly past them. They probably thought I had some kind of motor skills problem, but I really wanted to hear what they were saying. “I wouldn’t mind if they busted down the doors to every bank, to tell you the truth,” one of them said. Another agreed. The third said, “Hard to deny they’re right. Everything’s fucked right now.” The first officer said, “Because of Wall Street.” The second officer said, “The banks.” They all shook their heads.

So far, the LAPD has been very cool with Occupy Los Angeles. Nobody’s been arrested. They are losing their jobs also. They are losing their pensions. The LAPD did get something like 70,000 new handguns, though, but at the same time cities across America are shedding police and firefighter and paramedic and teacher positions. And on, and on. It’s silly for any of them to not get on board and demand justice from Wall Street.

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