As the Occupy LA encampment at City Hall digs in their heels to protect a patch of dirt, here’s a few thoughts and questions regarding the nearly two months of lobbying for change in our country’s financial institutions and corporations:

  • Where are the 99%?

    The 99%

    I understand who the 99% are, but I just don’t see the 99% coming out to support Occupy LA. I’ve covered many rallies, movements and social injustices over the past 25 years and can assure all the “occupiers” in LA (many of whom aren’t old enough to remember the injustice of the Rodney King beating, trial and subsequent riots) that a movement advocating representation of the 99% should have WAY MORE SUPPORT. Where is everyone? Is it not reasonable to expect that support for the Occupy cause in LA, a city of nearly 4 million people, should draw tens of thousands (if not hundreds of thousands) of Angelenos to the streets in support? After nearly two months of protest, it’s hardly unreasonable to expect that tens of thousands or more supporters would actively support the cause. In fact, look no further than recent immigration causes that have drawn massive crowds to the streets. The anger resulting from anti-immigration legislation has resulted in real, meaningful challenges to laws as well as the recent recall of Arizona senator Russell Pearce, architect of the state’s anti-immigrant bill SB1070.

  • Where is the massive Latino support of Occupy LA? 

Latinos protest SB1070

As is well known, Los Angeles city is home to one of the country’s largest Latino population with census numbers putting them at around 2 million, yet support is minimal at most in comparison to the support the Latino communities have shown for other social injustice issues. Why? Surely, the 99% includes a large amount of Latinos.

  • Where is the massive support from the  African American and Asian American communities?

Why are the streets not teeming with disenfranchised, young African Americans and Asian Americans? Surely, the 99% includes a them too?

  • Why is so much weed being smoked at the encampment?

What role does pot play in the cause for corporate and financial change? No matter one’s position on legalizing marijuana, it’s insane to assume that a major civil rights movement like this will garner massive support when the protesters in LA are perceived to be laying around tents and passing joints. Discount the significance of perception and you discount support.

  • Occupy LA “can’t see the forest for the trees.”

In other words, the movement, with it’s leadership structure, has resulted in so much in-fighting and  concern about their tents (the “trees”) that the overall message (the “forest”) is simply not being conveyed to the public. As a result, the focus is now on retaining their tents on a patch of dirt and an impending “stand-off” with police. The movement’s cause is not to end police brutality, it’s to end corporate and financial institution abuse, yet the overall impression the protesters put out to the general public (eg: the mass population that is key to massive support) is that they are in a fight against the city and its police force over a piece of property. Message lost.

  • In my opinion drawn from personal observation and media coverage (all media, from mainstream to alternative), the city has made a real  effort to work with the Occupy LA protesters.


The LAPD, who have a checkered past when dealing with dispersing large demonstrations, has shown restraint and tolerance during the last seven weeks and has worked with the protesters to avoid violent clashes. To put it another way, negotiations and compromise were open. Yet, it appears as if compromising is perceived by Occupy as a sign of weakness instead of a step on a long road toward real change. Reminds me that a large Oak tree is very strong but will break when it encounters heavy resistance, whereas flexible Bamboo will bend and bounce back to live another day.

  • Much like the corporations that have too much power in this country, Occupy has taken to blaming the messenger instead of looking within to address the problem of a ill perceived message.

Yes, it’s hard to accept, but it’s true. I heard and read too many times about the evil media and how “mainstream media” is part of the problem. No, sorry folks, but the problem is not the messenger. As Occupy has shown, embracing social media allows for direct communication with the public without any dreaded filtering by fact-checking editors. Despite this open channel of communication to get their message out, Occupy LA still can’t draw massive support from the 4 million LA residents in the same manner other large scale movements have recently done (immigration, Tea Party, Million Man March). Why?

  • I am part of the 99%

Believe me, photojournalists don’t enter the profession to make money. We are interested in documenting social issues and often do so without pay. Personally, I believe in the mission, but I don’t follow blindly. Professionally, I always keep an open mind while trusting my own experience and perceptions, the likes of which I shared above.

Finally, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said it best when he recently urged the demonstrators to direct their efforts at “spreading the message of economic equality” rather than “to defend a particular patch of earth.” Sound advice.

For more Occupy LA photos, click here and search the keywords for “Occupy”.

ALL PHOTOS © TODD BIGELOW, 2011. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Todd Bigelow Photography

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