Sarah had just gotten off of a plane after visiting her family in Thanksgiving before coming to the Occupy L.A. at Los Angeles City Hall. She sat in solidarity with dozens of demonstrators around a tent set up in the center of the camp. She held onto a surgical mask soaked in apple cider vinegar, which would help her “continue to breath if they use less-lethal weapons,” such as tear-gas, she said.
Sarah was among the Jewish people I met while spending the early hours of the morning—- from 1 a.m. to 6 a.m. - at Occupy L.A. on Monday, November 28, the day LAPD was scheduled to clear the encampment out but ultimately let the protestors remain. The future is uncertain for Occupy L.A., but the Los Angeles Times reported today that the movement has filed a court order to block the eviction.
According to Reuters:
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa had given protesters until 12:01 a.m. local time to dismantle their tents and clear out of the park or face a forcible removal, setting the stage for the latest showdown between leaders of a major U.S. city and the Occupy Wall Street movement.
On Nov. 25, Villarigosa ordered that the Occupy protestors would need to clear out on Monday. Four activists were arrested during otherwise peaceful clashes with LAPD officials arrested four activists on Monday morning, approximately five hours after this deadline passed.
Ben Segal, 26, a student at UC San Diego, drove up to Los Angeles to take part in the demonstration on Sunday night and Monday night, “because we wanted to support the occupation here and stand in solidarity with the [movement],” Segal said, linking arms with his girlfriend, Feliz, as they formed a chain with other demonstrators encircling the four-block-radius park around City Hall.
“We tend to be pretty active historically,” Segal said of Jews getting involved with causes like Occupy L.A.
David Feldman, who identified as a non-religious Jew, joined demonstrators on 1st St. around 1 a.m. on Monday, and he pledged to remain for as a long as he could keep his eyes open.
“There are certain moments where it’s important for people to take a stand and I think this is one of those moments,” he said.
Also around 1 a.m., Tony Maldonado, a Mexican American Italian Jew and filmmaker, asked a trumpet player to play “Johnny Comes Marching Home,” an American Civil War-era song, and the musician obliged.
Before the police and demonstrators clashed on Monday morning, Maldonado said that the Occupy L.A. was growing stronger and more resilient than ever.
We’re capturing the “American spirit because people do understand what’s happening,” Maldonado said. “Maybe they can’t support us all the time, but they understand what’s happening, and they’re watching what’s happening.”
Maldonado criticized Villaraigosa for his decision to announce the camp be cleared out. “He never came out once to talk to anybody. He could’ve come out the day of Thanksgiving…yesterday, he was in the press room [at City Hall], he could’ve come out…and talked to everybody and said, ‘No matter what has happened, we need to work together on this thing. We need to work on the detail. What do you want? We’re going to work with you.’”
On Monday morning, demonstrators caused 1st St. - all that’s separating Los Angeles City Hall, where the Occupy encampment has been operating for eight weeks now, from the Los Angeles Police department headquarters - to be closed off between Main St. and Spring. St.
By 4 a.m., nearly 100 police officers in riot gear formed a perimeter around the south edge of the Occupy encampment, standing in a row and blocking off one crosswalk at 1st St. and Main St. and two crosswalks at 1st St. and Spring St.
Between 4 a.m. and 6 a.m., a row of police officers advanced gradually on 1st St., moving in a long line that stretched from Main St. to Spring St., which run parallel to each other, on the south edge of the Occupy camp, eventually making four arrests of activists after demanding that all protestors - and media - remove themselves from the street.
Commander Andrew Smith, LAPD spokesman, said that the arrested parties were in violation of California Penal Code 409, which says, “Every person remaining present at the place of any riot…after [it] has been lawfully warned to disperse…is guilty of a misdemeanor.”
Since the Occupy Wall Street movement began in September, causing Occupy movements to spring up around the country, there has been some debate about whether or not the Occupy protests have a pervasive anti-Semitic or anti-Zionist element. I had a few brushes with anti-Zionism at the Monday morning demonstration.
Of these anti-Zionist instances, one protestor held up a large cardboard sign that said “Occupy L.A., Not Palestine” in spray-painted writing; another protestor walked around yelling the same slogan. When I went up to the latter protestor and asked him why’d he come to participate in the demonstration - and told him that I write for the Jewish Journal - he said, “Nothing wrong with Jewish people, just Zionism.”
In October, progressive Jewish groups, including Progressive Jewish Alliance and IKAR, showed solidarity with the Occupy L.A. movement, helping to construct a sukkah amongst the tents. I didn’t walk by the sukkah on this trip to Occupy L.A., but Journal reporter Jonah Lowenfeld reported earlier this month that the sukkah had been “repurposed.”