#OCCUPYLA JOURNAL NO. 2: FAT VS. FIRE
photos by romana machado
In the comments section of Friday LAT story on the endgame between OLA and City Hall you’ll find paramilitary analysis of the tactical situation that ought to win props for Blithering Obviousness. “[The LAPD],” says this freelance Nostradamus, “will bring in a monstrous swarm of riot officers. They’ve had 2 months to prepare. (They happen to be right across the street.) They will bring in numerous buses for the arrestees…. It will take place in the early morning. And it will take place under the noise and glare of their helicopters.”
It’s always cute when some random popcorn-muncher thinks he’s Stonewall Jackson, but this guy does have a slightly better grasp than LAPD Chief Charlie Beck, who predicted winter rains would wash away the occupation a few weeks back. The movement rolled up to City Hall for the purpose of forcing officials into staging just such brute theater. Many of the occupiers, along with volunteers from church and labor groups, seem quite keen for the experience, a fact you’ll seldom hear bruited in the MSM, which tends to treat the whole movement as some kind of collegiate fad it hopes will simply go away. Last week, the city tried to hurry the going-away process along by offering occupiers housing, office space and even a farm if only they’d relocate. This divide-and-buy approach was hastily withdrawn by officials, likely after they got an initial taste of the contemptuous refusal that would greet the proposal.
It’s fair to say that sometime after caricatures of swagbellied Lt. John Pike casually dousing sitting protestors with pepper-spray at UC Davis wound up on half the Facebook pages in America, occupiers’ trust in officials vanished. Perhaps dimly aware of this, the city announced on Wednesday it wanted the movement moved by next week, posting on Thursday ill-received reminders the park closes at 10:30 p.m. and no camping is allowed. The encampment was to be removed “sometime next week” and Occupy L.A. would be given “sufficient notice” when the net will drop on them. That notice came on Friday at a late afternoon press conference, wherein Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Chief Beck announced OLA had to vacate the newly renamed “Solidarity Park” by 12:01 a.m. Monday morning.
Antonio looked really funny talking about human rights and “one-sided” conversations next to a wall of senior cops and funnier still invoking his right to close the park to the public in order to improve the public’s access to it. The mayor wants this exit strategy to be brought off in such a way as to “honor the experience we’ve had up ‘til now,” though how closing down this experience honors it remains rather mysterious. Nor was the wisdom of the prospect of committing city resources to arresting and booking hundreds of people over misdemeanor violations of the law ever addressed.
So does the fat, by indirect route and with much official fumbling, approach the fire. The obvious question –why are police and mayor’s offices all over America freaking out like this? – was answered with some finality by Naomi Wolf in Saturday’s Guardian. Heavy use of Department of Homeland Security services by municipal governments indicate “coordination against OWS at the highest national levels” and a few emails from occupiers were enough to make at least one media liberal understand 1) the movement does have a message and 2) it’s not the kind reporters are allowed to convey in respectable U.S. publications. William Jennings Bryan still had hair on his head back when mainline American politicians and journos were last allowed to say “Screw the banks” in public, even as a joke.
So far, no one’s stopped to ask why a power structure that tolerates (and a financial system that encourages) widespread homelessness and beggary should get so viciously bent out of shape over a few more tents on the sidewalk. At this point, I rather think it has something to do with what’s painted on the many signs out in front of them.
Despite these doomy rattlings behind the arras, it was an active week for #OLA, highlighted by Wednesday’s Occupy Music #2 event at The Smell. It was my first night at this beloved Carnegie of noise pop since I got back into town and it was plain the venue was embracing the movement in a way few other neighborhood spaces do. Ezra Buchla of The Mae Shi lugged along his violin and played a few moody selections with Laura Steenberge on contrabass. Emily Lacy led us through a long human microphone recitation to the effect that the 1% ought to start looking for a situation elsewhere and Lucky Dragons, one of my favorite L.A. bands, offloaded a cheery set of their pulsing, meandering Pong-like experimental music. A few of the younger occupiers looked in, but the crowd was mostly the usual flock of noise-reverent young people.
It’s late Saturday afternoon as of this writing and Occupy LA is gearing up to fight the expulsion. NOFX is set to play an acoustic show at 3 p.m. today. After that, there’s a block party counting down the hours until the cops come to evict everyone. Charlie Beck promises to enforce Hizzoner’s bizarre decision to go O.K. Corral, making tomorrow night the first downtown music event I knew cops were going to raid in advance. This is truly the dawn of a new era in rock journalism.