“Are people still Occupying?”
I had that question last week, because the media has stopped covering that story. A few months ago the Occupy Wall Street movement was the headline story on a daily basis for all media outlets. The movement then spread to other cities like Oakland and Los Angeles, which received some recognition. I recall lying in bed the night the police removed the Occupy LA protestors from the city hall park, and thinking that they should just wait one more day because Los Angeles was expecting high winds that could’ve blew the protestors away the next day.
I admired the efforts of the 99 percent forging an allegiance against the 1 percent, even though they were the brunt of a number of jokes I wrote. To believe in something so much that you’re willing to camp out like a homeless person while police threaten arrest is pretty impressive. I don’t even like camping out under normal circumstances in a cabin or tent.
As I watched the evacuation of the park I thought the movement was over, because subsequently the media stopped covering the protest. Little did I know, the movement didn’t stop. People were still Occupying. I got word of it via a Twitter update from someone who retweeted something from @OccupyLA.
I believe I have some pretty strong opinions, but not so much that I take to the streets to share them. I also have values, but if they require me to go out of my way to spread the word of those values I usually pass. Because of that, I had never attended a protest until last Wednesday when I made my way to city hall to participate in the Occupy LA movement.
I got information from the Occupy LA Twitter account that general assembly meetings occur on the footsteps of city hall every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday nights at 7:30 pm. Apparently, even protestors need a few days off.
I made my way down to city hall at 7pm, and found parking immediately in front of the building of my old employer, the Los Angeles Times. I got there early because I think it would be bad form to show up late to a protest. I figured it takes longer to make things change if you show up late.
I explored the area and noticed that the park was gated off. I assumed the city shut down access to the park so as not to encourage the Occupy LA protestors to set up their shantytown again. When I arrived to the assembly location there was a few scattered individuals lining the steps. I forgot to leave my S Pellegrino water bottle in the car, and hoped that the protestors didn’t think I was part of the 1 percent because of my choice in beverage.
I certainly had some assumptions in my head for the type of people I expected to see at the assembly. The media did its typical stereotyping of protestors as crazy people when the movement was at its strongest, but they also depicted some reasonable individuals. I figured I’d see more of the crazy people left over, since the passionately crazy individuals would be the ones who stuck around despite the lack of attention.
My assumption was somewhat accurate when I arrived and one dude would not stop shrieking. He wasn’t even shrieking words of coherence. It was just a loud sound of noise and I seemed to be the only one who was bothered by his high pitch sound. I couldn’t hear what anyone else was saying because for some reason he took a liking to me. Maybe he sensed my new blood. I knew I should have left my Pellegrino water in the car. Either way, he was ruining my ability to Occupy. In fact he was driving me away.
The assembly started right on the dot at 7:30pm and everyone gathered in closely almost like a rugby scrum. There were about 65 people who showed up, which was significantly less than the hundreds that were camping out when the movement first started. It was kind of sad, because it could have been mistaken for a class field trip if it had been daytime, since everyone in attendance was relatively young. I guess protesting is a young man’s game. At one point the shrieker looked at me and tried to get me to join the scrum with him. I was having no part of that though. I should’ve taken a picture of the shrieker, but I didn’t want to encourage him into thinking that I was approving of his behavior, and plus I didn’t know if it would freak him out even more.
Prior to this attempt to join a protest, the only other time I had been in an atmosphere of a similar nature was when Michael Moore was scheduled to come to my college campus at California State University, San Marcos. The Dean banned his visit, and instead of speaking to a few hundred kids the Association Students Incorporated moved his speaking engagement to the off-campus location at the Del Mar Fairgrounds where over 10,000 people joined to listen to his rally with peace advocate and musician Joan Baez. That event received national news, and elicited positive change, because Moore sponsored a scholarship in his name each year to one lucky CSUSM student who stuck it to the man the hardest like he had been known to do.
The energy at that assembly was electric, but even then I felt like Moore was trying to brain wash me. I received the same feeling when the shrieker was trying to gather me in with his friends. It’s a feeling I don’t like, even though I admire both of their efforts. I like to be allowed to observe and then make a decision if I want to join the cause.
So, I skipped my way on out of there back to my car. I had seen enough to realize that even though the Occupy movement was still going on, it had lost significant steam. My protesting efforts weren’t going to help either, but before I completely left downtown, however, I had one more stop to make.