November 2, 2011
Occupy L.A. raises more questions than it answers
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That’s not all. Occupy L.A. has been allowed to use gas- and solar-powered generators to run its media operations and music amplification systems. The food tent was not serving hot food this past weekend (the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health stopped the movement from serving prepared food around mid-October, according to Curbed LA), but small subgroups of occupiers — tribes with names like Bike Skum and Kids’ Village — had set up collective kitchens around stoves and hot plates.
Kyle Lesley, 30, came south to join Occupy L.A. after spending a few weeks with the occupiers in his hometown of San Francisco. There, police raids were frequent, Lesley said, and all of the Occupy S.F. media operations had to be run exclusively on battery power.
But the organizational burdens of the food and media outreach, as well as the constant stream of musicians and comedians and others dropping by to entertain the group, have taken some of the energy away from the occupation’s central goal, Lesley said.
“There’s so much effort to keep the community alive that we’re really not protesting that much,” he said.
At Occupy L.A., Jews are way easier to find than anti-Semites.
It’s far too soon to tell what political impact — if any — the Occupy Wall Street movement might have, but that hasn’t stopped Conservative media outlets from branding the protests as anti-Semitic.
The Occupy movement is leaderless and amorphous, and if any person has a message to deliver, he or she can do so without too much difficulty. There have been reports of protesters railing against “Zionist Jews” who control the Federal Reserve and/or Wall Street, but after conducting dozens of interviews with participants at Occupy L.A., I only met one person who had something anti-Jewish to say.
Deborah Smith, who was fired a little less than a year ago from her job as a real estate appraiser, felt strongly that the Jewish judge who presided over her divorce from her Jewish ex-husband discriminated against her because she was not Jewish.
“If I was prejudiced [against Jews], I wouldn’t have married one,” Smith said, in the course of a rant in which she also said that Bernie Madoff “better not be the only Jewish banker in jail, he better get a lot of f———company.”
Smith lost her home a few years ago and was sitting at the entrance to the tent where she is now living, on the west side of City Hall Park. The G.A. meeting was still going on, but she wasn’t attending.
“I am not prejudiced,” she said. “But my judge was prejudiced, and he was a Jew, and he saw that I was a shiksa, and he stuck it to me.”
The intensity of some media outlets’ focus on isolated expressions of anti-Semitic sentiment belies the degree to which Jews have themselves taken part in the protests.
Indeed, according to Josh Dunn, 33, a protester from Palm Springs who was raised Jewish and has since explored many other spiritual practices, Jewish clergy have been far more involved than clergy of any other religion.
As previously reported in this newspaper, during Sukkot, the weeklong Festival of Booths, a group of rabbis put up a sukkah in the midst of Occupy L.A. The booth was, Dunn said, “the single way in which the religious community of Los Angeles has taken part in what we’re doing here.”
Dunn, who studied art as an undergraduate at UCLA and now runs the Web site TribalCommunistParty.org, said he has been disappointed to see the lack of organized religious support for Occupy L.A.
Indeed, the only spiritual offering I witnessed at Occupy L.A. was a single tent with a sign that said, “Meditation Temple; No shoes, Silence please. Free Yoga @ 5 pm.”
The former sukkah’s frame, meanwhile, remains standing, uninhabited, at the north edge of the park, right between the tents of the Tarp Tribe and the Love Committee.