November 2, 2011
Occupy L.A. raises more questions than it answers
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As a result, the ideologically diverse crowd that gathers each day at Occupy L.A. has, so far, failed to push ahead with any particular demands.
“Occupy L.A. is populated by Democrats, libertarians, socialists and anarchists,” Gene Maddaus wrote recently in the LA Weekly, “not to mention 9/11 Truthers, Oath Keepers, End the Fedders, sound-money guys, and a sizable contingent of homeless and mentally ill people looking for free food.”
At a recent G.A. meeting, a few “End the Fedders” pushed for Occupy L.A. to call for the repeal of the Federal Reserve Act of 1913, which created the country’s central bank and granted it authority to print money.
This proposal, which has been promoted by Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul, did not sit well with the speakers who followed. One dismissed it as too complicated, another declared it too controversial, a third suggested it might be better if Occupy L.A. promoted the adoption of a new, completely electronic currency instead. Ultimately, no action was taken on the proposal.
The occupiers are determined to stay in City Hall Park for as long as it takes them to achieve their (as-yet-undefined) goals.
Bob Vanech, wearing khakis and a dress shirt, hardly looks the part of an “Occupy” protester. This self-described ex-Wall Street businessman serves on Occupy L.A.’s Demands Committee, and on Oct. 29 he once again came downtown to the site from his home in Venice, bringing with him his 15-year-old son.
Vanech said he believes Occupy L.A. will soon issue “demands of our local politicians.”
On Oct. 12, Los Angeles’ City Council approved a resolution supporting the First Amendment rights of the occupiers, but Vanech, who was once a contestant on a politically themed reality TV show on Showtime, said he and other members of the committee plan to see how far that support extends.
“We’re not going to ask for demands saying, ‘If you give us this we’ll leave,’ ” Vanech said. “We’re saying, ‘You said you support us. We’re actually going to test that support to see if it was politics or genuine support.’ ”
The protesters, for the most part, seem in no rush to clarify their aims. Ryan Rice, 26, has been part of Occupy L.A. from the beginning; he explained that the model of occupation is a strategy for social protesters with a great deal of patience.
“At some point,” Rice said, “everyone on the planet will know why we are out here.”
The occupiers don’t much like the media — even when they are working with it.
Gia Trimble, a volunteer who was trying to keep the remnants of an early morning rain shower from dripping into Occupy L.A.’s heavily wired media tent, put it simply. “At the end of the day, the media is a big part of the whole 1 percent,” she said.
Some of that frustration with the media may be due to reporters asking — repeatedly, and mostly without getting answers — what the protesters are aiming to achieve, and even voices sympathetic to a movement protesting income inequality are voicing doubts about the Occupy Wall Street movement. This week, The New York Times’ Bill Keller, The New Yorker’s Hendrik Hertzberg and the Los Angeles Times’ Steve Lopez all penned columns wondering when — or whether — the protesters might ever get beyond what Keller called “the dreamy level of John Lennon lyrics.”
“I’m beginning to think the demonstrators are all talk and no action,” Lopez wrote after spending a night with the occupiers.
Occupy L.A. is growing — but as it does, it requires an increasing amount of work just to keep going.
Despite Vanech’s suspicion that some on the City Council may not be wholeheartedly in favor of Occupy L.A., the movement enjoys a great deal more support here than similar encampments in other cities do. Occupy Oakland was violently dismantled by police on Oct. 25, an action for which that city’s mayor is still trying to atone, and, according to news reports, dozens of protesters were arrested in both Denver and Nashville on Oct. 29.
Los Angeles’ occupiers, by contrast, enjoy a cordial relationship with the Los Angeles Police Department, which has its headquarters right across the street from the encampment, and the Occupy L.A. Peacekeepers led by Arreola feel comfortable calling in the police if needed.
“We get a few incidents involving a lot of disputes between the people here, but overall, it’s fairly quiet,” LAPD Capt. David Lindsay said.