As history has shown, a movement is not made overnight. We don’t need to look very far into the past to see the evidence of it. The Arab Spring, the moniker for the civil unrest in Arab countries like Libya, Egypt and Syria, developed over many weeks and months. Their message was clear: Freedom from repression at any cost. In our own country, the farm workers, united by Cesar Chavez, and the disenfranchised African Americans, led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., fought for years to make gains in equality. Sit-ins were a tactic that all used, from the South in the 1960’s to Egypt in 2011. But it was the unified voice and passion for real change the pushed the protesters agenda into reality. Does the Occupy movement have it?
With these thoughts in mind, I headed down to the Occupy Los Angeles encampment at LA’s City Hall to get a vibe for how the movement was progressing. I spent the previous Saturday with the group both in their camp and on the streets as part of the Global Day of Protest for occupiers worldwide and witnessed the rage and passion and calls for civil unrest. This time, I wanted to get a glimpse of the occupiers daily life, when the world’s attention is not staring them in the face. In fact, as many of the Occupy LA people traveled a few miles to demonstrate against corporate giant Rupert Murdoch at Fox Studios, I wanted to peek behind the curtain to see what sort of work was being done outside of holding signs.
My impression is the movement is struggling to find it’s foothold after the initial surge in interest. Soon after arriving, I was “warned” by a passing occupier to “be careful taking pictures” or I might get beat-up like another photographer. That had me laughing since the irony of occupying a public space for attention and then trying to intimidate the public for providing the desired attention was lost on the pissed-off occupier. Maybe he was tired of the tourists who stop by and point their cell phones toward their tents. But aren’t the tourists part of the 99% too? Aren’t journalists part of the 99% (I can assure you we are)? Shouldn’t everyone be made to feel welcome? Maybe they’ll join or support the cause. It got me thinking that the overall message of inclusion and opportunities for all is being lost on occupiers as the movement goes on.
On this day, the camp clearly took on the look of LA’s famously quirky Venice Beach. To be sure, there were a handful of protesters urging everyone to follow them to “the Fed” to protest, but many ignored the call and continued with daily life in the tent city. One well spoken, out-of-work entertainment industry veteran explained that there is a bit of division among the occupiers with some feeling that the best way to protest is to simply “occupy” the space as opposed to constant sign-waving. Others, the man explained, felt the passive “occupiers” were not doing enough for the cause.
Sitting nearby was Angel, a bearded, friendly man who had just arrived from San Francisco, who was preparing open-faced sandwiches for anyone who was hungry. A small line quickly formed and Angel thanked each one for “being here.” A few yards from a giant peace sign painted on the steps of LA City Hall, one young woman was lost in the Reggae music as she maneuvered a Hula Hoop over her body. Not far from her, a man sat meditating in a tree hammock high above the tents. A music circle formed nearby and soon the sounds of guitars, harmonicas and drums filled the air. It was time for me to head back to the subway.
For More Images of Occupy LA, please click HERE