Downtown LA News: A Juice Maid & City Officials Decry Occupy’s Art Walk Hijacking
ADAM MICHAEL LUEBKE
“Don’t hijack our orgy with your political concerns”
I happened to be walking past the Cecil Hotel downtown when I noticed a neatly folded, clean-looking newspaper setting atop a trash bin. Beneath the paper were plastic bottles and Styrofoam food containers. Nothing too filthy. The tips of the paper fluttered the gentle gusts of wind. The damned thing called out to me, so I grabbed it.
Los Angeles Downtown News the top left corner said. Volume 41, Number 30. I like newspapers, and I’d never seen or read this one before. I had the day to kill, so I marched over to Spring For Coffee and ordered an Ethiopian blend so I could get good and primed to launch into this thin newspaper.
Sipping my coffee, I flipped through the first pages without being impressed. The new Grand Park was being opened, but I’d already read about that. It vaguely reminded me of that sandlot that Mayor Villaraigosa opened as a bathroom facility for the downtown homeless population. All the urinating and defecating in public problems…solved.
When I came to page six, I saw an article about Occupy Los Angeles. I’ve written about Occupy LA a few times. Mostly I’ve been supportive. Not always, especially when a few of those fools taunt the police, but usually I’m impressed by the dialogue created and maintained within that movement, both online and in person.
They know about the Federal Reserve. The bloated, non-violent prison population. Private companies like Goldman Sachs profiting off that swelling prison population. Illegal immigration problems. Unlawful predator drone strikes that kill hundreds (if not thousands) of innocent people in Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, and Afghanistan. Obama’s kill list. And so on. I don’t see any other groups protesting those issues, nor do I see any other movements literally saving houses, soon to be foreclosed on by our mega banks.
Occupy Wall Street, and the national movement, is not home to a bunch of ruffians who had been roused from “their parents’ couches” just to get the junkie adrenaline thrill of protesting and clashing with police under the auspices of joining a good social movement.
Those were the rough thoughts I had while sitting on a squeaky lawn chair outside the coffee shop. The sun and hot coffee made me sweat. The article’s title read “Art Walk, Businesses, Feel Pain From Occupy Protests”. I’ll bet, I said to myself, that this article’s title might, more suitably, read: Downtown News Highlights An American Society Happy to Remain Ignorant.
I hadn’t read the piece yet, but I was almost positive it was going to take a hit at the Occupy movement. And why not? Occupy rarely lashes out. They can’t. Their goal is to make lasting social change, so they have to be as diplomatic and easy-going as possible. There are always a few shitheads in every crowd, but for the most part, Occupy is made up of peaceful, knowledgeable young and old people.
The first few paragraphs of the article handed me a strait-laced overview of the Occupy movement’s romance with the LAPD on July 12’s Art Walk, when protesters were arrested for writing with chalk on private property and the city’s sidewalks. The protesters were angry. Why shouldn’t they be? The LAPD isn’t exactly a peaceful organization. They shoot young men 90 times on the freeway, while the scene’s being broadcast live on TV. The city knows people enjoy that kind of rush. Especially in LA.
The Juice Maid Spills Her Concern
Then, the article dived into real quotes from Real people, like Nikki Castellanos, who is a director of marketing for a juice company called Coba. The company runs the Coba Gallery, which had to be closed early because police were dealing with protesters.
The Juice Maid was concerned about how “new folks from other areas” might feel about the protesters and the police crackdown. Would they be scared away from downtown; what kind of impression would this make on people visiting the area? and other marketing-style questions were asked. She expressed the horror of having the Art Walk permanently shut down.
According to the article, “Thursday’s confrontation began after protesters started providing chalk and inviting people to scrawl political messages on the street.” After that, a crowd formed. They were angry that police arrested nine people for writing on the city’s surfaces with chalk. Never mind the fact that chalk washes or wears off. A heavy-handed police reaction to folks drawing with chalk could also be blamed in marring this precious event. The real bitch of the situation for these people was that Occupy had hijacked the Art Walk.
That’s a grave offense in this country. Americans want to be left alone with their entertainment and public events. They want to eat their food, enjoy their drinks, watch the game, and have plenty of sleazy women to lust after in the high definition advertisements. But they will not suffer reality anywhere near their marketplaces or their homes.
If somebody busts in talking about the Federal Reserve manipulating interest rates in this country to benefit a few, while devaluing the dollar for the rest of us, well fuck them. Don’t talk about that now. We’ve got art and juice and alcohol and fatty foods to enjoy. Talk to us about the problem tomorrow. Well, maybe not, because we’ll find a similar event with the same deadbeat, lower energy pleasures to indulge in then, too.
Art Walk Director Lashes Out
After the Juice Maid’s account of the scarring Occupy-hijacked Art Walk, the article introduces us to the Director of the show, Joe Moller. Moller took a swipe at Occupy LA. He knows the movement won’t crank any insults back at him, so he slugged away with the confidence of a young boy who’s got his mother standing behind him in full support.
“One of the challenges that that organization [Occupy] has is that nobody cares anymore. Their audience has gone home, gone back to work, gone back to their parents’ couches, and this new group of leftovers are not able to find an audience for their messages.”
Moller’s right that “nobody cares anymore.” But that’s nothing to be proud of. Anybody who undermines a movement responsible for empowering millions of Americans to take physical action by occupying the spaces in which their local governments function, and to use their First Amendment rights to express their outrage, is a fool, and a damned good one. This country still largely believes that voting Democrat or Republican can turn around their miseries. Occupy did a hell of a job to break that myth. And it’s still doing so, although in smaller factions.
As for the leftover group of Occupy activists not finding an audience for their message, well, you’d better hope they do, slick rick, because this country doesn’t have much time left before it’s completely eaten out from the inside by greedy, corrupt, global bankers and defense contractors.
The movement has highlighted the massive amount of money pumped into both parties by Wall Street and Big Business. Occupy has helped to show millions of people the shitty deal they got when huge financial institutions like Goldman Sachs packaged and sold toxic debt to unknowing investors. Those packages were like miniature nuclear bombs that have blown up the financial system and economic health of this nation from the top down.
Yet, we don’t want anybody spouting these realities near our Art Walks and barbecues and local areas of business. We’ve got too much high fructose corn syrup in our veins to deal with those types of heavy talking points.
Flogged by Sweaty City Council Members
At that point, I handed that page of the newspaper over to a homeless guy leaning back against the side of the building. He’d been looking at me as I mumbled about inflated interest rates, police brutality, and how Wall Street stole everyone’s pensions and retirement funds.
Look at this malarkey, I told him. He grabbed the page in his gloved-hands and brought it real close to his face. “Drop in business,” he read out loud. Mhm, I said. “Bad for business,” he read. Yes, I said. “Businesses feel pain,” he read. Oh yeah.
Nobody wants to hear about our erosion of civil liberties or the massacres of men, women, and children overseas when there’s money to be made. Even when the economy’s good, Americans don’t want to hear or listen to the people keeping abreast of violations against the Fourth and First Amendments.
“Amen,” he said. “Things will never change in this country. Everybody’s fat and has too much cheese in their heads.”
And cake, too, I said. Cheese and cake and wine and beer and fried chicken wings.
“All in the brain,” he said, and laughed. “Can’t get down about it. Bunch of greedy suckers in this society, don’t want no good change for people.” He scoped the bottom of the page and read aloud, “Numerous business owners said they suffered financial losses from the night.”
Of course family businesses are important in this country, but when there is cancer spread far and wide, we’d better warn society. But if everybody’s focused only on their dollar bills they take in each day, there’s no way we’ll have time or space to get the word out. We’re in awful shape in this country, I said, but you’d never know it by the way our citizens act. They’re too keyed up on the Kardashians and the Lakers and how to distinguish between fake tits and the real ones, there’s no blood or brain-power left to consider the sophisticated issues.
“Everybody’s unemployed,” the homeless man said. “I can’t even get a room at the shelter no more. Full of women and children. No room for men.”
We’re at around 14.5 percent real unemployment rate, I told him. The White House won’t tell you that. They don’t want to count the people who stopped looking for work, or have been unemployed so long they don’t get benefits anymore.
“City Councilman Jose Huizar said he thinks ‘it was unfortunate to have a very successful public event scarred by this incident,'” he read.
Huizar’s right, I said. How dare people remind their fellow countrymen that the value of their dollar is collapsing. That is scarring. That Saudi Arabia and China don’t want to use the dollar anymore for trading oil. Occupy LA should be arrested, stripped down to their underwear, lined up outside City Hall, and flogged by sweaty council members for even trying to bring some of this stupid stuff into our short-lived attention spans.
When the petrodollar collapses, and this nation loses its ability to supply the world with its reserve currency, we’ll see how many people have extra money in their pockets to eat out and patronize events like the Art Walk. Printing dollars is America’s greatest export, and that’s the only reason we’re not bankrupt, yet. But China, the Middle East, and Russia are sick of us stuffing our devalued dollar down their throats.
“These people don’t care nothing about that,” my homeless friend said. “Not a lick. Until it happens.”
Oh, it’ll never happen in America! Whoa-ho, chum! Not here. Don’t mention that the Federal Reserve printed an extra $16 trillion to bail out foreign banks and the globe’s largest corporations with our dollars. That wouldn’t happen here. That won’t affect us. And even if there are that many extra trillions of dollars floating in the world market, that shouldn’t affect the Art Walk. Listen, I said, maybe you should be a councilman.
“Who in the hell would want a job like that?” he asked.
I stood up and demanded he give back the page of my paper I’d handed him. He refused. “I’ll wipe my ass with it,” he said, smiling. Give it back, you alarmist, white-livered recreant!
You’ve got to lay it on thick with homeless folks. They’re immune to all sorts of vicious barbs from the tongue. If you hung around Art Walk, they wouldn’t make any money! I shouted. Nobody wants to see a dirty face in their marketplace. You people remind us that this country has such serious problems that there probably isn’t any fix. Nobody wants that!
I rolled up the rest of the Los Angeles Downtown News publication and used it as a baton to beat my friend over the head until he surrendered the page I wanted.