On a sunny Sunday, my husband, my 17 year old daughter and I drove downtown to have a look for ourselves at the much reported about Occupy LA. While people in Portland, Austin and Denver were getting the stuffings knocked out of them (in inclement weather no less), we were treated to the sight of Los Angeles’ City Hall ringed with tents and abuzz with peaceful activity. We stopped by the Welcome Tent and were invited to attend any one of the meetings listed on the board.Coursework in Basic Economics, Nonviolent Tactical Training and yoga weren’t exactly what we were expecting to find, but there they were. We saw a few pairs of police officers patrolling the sidewalks, but everyone seemed perfectly willing to let the peace prevail. Even the strong whiffs I got of marijuana didn’t seem to turn their heads. How do you know what marijuana smell like, my daughter asked testily. I changed the subject. My policy is, the less my children know about my youthful indiscretions the better for them to make a fresh start on their own.
We made the trek downtown because there’s been so much talk about the rowdiness and general wierdness of the folks who populate the tents of the Occupied cities. But on their 30th day, the LA Occupants seem a colorful but well organized, diverse and remarkably cheerful bunch. Whatever your politics, you had to be charmed by their signs: the confident We are the 99% and so are you – Occupy the World, Inquire Within and This is Modern Democracy; or the slightly more aggressive One Day the Poor Will Have Nothing Left to Eat But the Rich, the politically philosophical What type of country is it where money speaks louder than the voice of the people? I liked the new take on the apocalyptic: The Beginning is Near.There was a man walking around with a sign that read Imagine Fairness and another man in a beret who’d wrapped a sign around his dog’s middle that read No War Yes Jobs Health Care. There was the tent with the curious offer Free Bike Repair or Therapy, and the Jewish tent calling itself A Just Sukkah.
All that and a concert of reggae music, calm, inspirational speakers, a man who’d laid out a Buddhist shrine with flower petals, flowers, candles, water and, for some reason, a shell studded belt. I loved the tent with the soccer mom chair in front of it beside a nice, new cooler. There were new moms with babies, a kitten and a guy walking his two pit bulls on ropes.
OK, after 45 minutes we were ready to head back the comfort of our westside home. But it was good to get a first hand look at how things really looked downtown. If our mayor is seriously considering the removal of Occupy LA to save the grass, I’d say he should refer to one of the signs posted on the corner of Temple and Spring which says, The 1st Amendment is our Permit.
In the meantime, for those of you who might also like to get your news about this extraordinary national phenomenon in person, here’s a posted list of the Needs of the Occupation: tents, canopies, blankets, clamps, photopaper, showertent, receipt tickets, accordian file, paper clips, commercially prepared food, indivdually prepared food.
Or just pitch your tent for a spell. It’s a lovely thing to be among people who would not otherwise cross paths, sitting and talking and dancing and laughing without fear of one another. In fact, that would be a pretty terrific way for the rest of us to occupy LA.
The ‘Occupy’ movement worldwide has such resonance. Those camped in front of London’s St.. Paul’s Cathedral are under the threat of being moved out. This action is supported by the church’s leaders; a church named for St. Paul, who built tents for a living. Wonder what he’d think about this, as well as the movement’s primary causes?
Oh, the irony!
I just heard that L.A.’s mayor ok’ed putting a wall among the tents around City Hall – presumably to protect a fountain and a sculpture. But they’ve invited people to paint the wall and the spray cans are already at work. Different places, different responses.
Lisa, your description of LA’s tent city sounds much like Tel Aviv’s this past summer. The humor there, too, was all over the place. It seems this generation of protesters worldwide has a wonderful ironic sense of humor. Enjoyed your post. Keep it up. Judy