November 28, 2011

My Visit To Occupy Los Angeles

I arrived to Occupy Los Angeles at 5:20PM on November 28th.  By 5:23PM, while taking in the scenery and wondering where to explore first, a guy stumbled over and was the first person to talk to me.  “Hey, dude, is that a joint in your mouth?  Do you have any pot?” After I informed him that it was a pen and that he shouldn’t smoke - especially in public - he told me to keep my opinions to myself.  This, ironically, was funny, as he is part of the 99%; a movement in America that appears to be one of the most iconic forms of public expression and activism in recent years. 
I laughed, grabbed my notepad and started to walk around.  This man is the poster child for which is often portrayed to the general public by media outlets; a disheveled, inarticulate guy on a quest for drugs and alcohol.  This is not the movement and sadly, this aspect of portrayal is what people eat up, which makes it easier for folks to brush these protests aside.
When I arrived, the occupation had been in occurrence for 58 days.  Many hours before, at 12:00AM, an eviction order deadline was given by Los Angeles Mayor Villaraigosa.  The reason for said eviction was:  “It is time to close the park and repair the grounds so that we can restore public access to the park.”  Restore public access?  Although I am new to Los Angeles, it didn’t take an expert to understand this was probably the largest and widespread use of the park in the history of the city.
In all honestly, the park did smell like urine, pot, and body order – but any recent college graduate has probably smelled worse at an off campus house party.  It does not matter what the park smelled like, or the type of people that were there, because at the root of it, beyond the shenanigans of the “tag-a-longers,” also known as, the people who are occupying for the hell of it, there is a core movement that was started well beyond the recent recession.  And many people at Occupy Los Angeles believe so.
David Pierce, 33, of Santa Barbara
Among the people I spoke with, one of the best versed, intelligent, and articulate was David Pierce, 33, a Santa Barbara native who was laid off from IMB, known as one of the most influential companies in the world, just six months earlier. He came to Los Angeles to use his college degree, past work experience, and determination in order to find another job.  Instead, he found Occupy Los Angeles.
“The LAPD hate the mayor; they fucking hate him.  Well, most of them,” he said.  “They are part of the movement, every last one of them.  They are underpaid, overworked, and at 3AM, when there are no camera crews around and it’s just us and them, we talk.”
Pierce expanded and said he believes if the LAPD are given the order to make arrests in the future, most will lay down their badge and return home to spend time with their families.  He added that, “just because they are not here with us, camped out in front of City Hall, does not mean they don’t agree with us.”
I told David Pierce about my website and the how it is catered to Generation Y.  We spoke about how, quite possibly, our generation has the upper hand on a lot of things, particularly when it comes to social movements, activism, and freedom of expression.
“You are all hackers.  Well, most of you,” he said.  “And not hackers in the general sense.  You guys know your way around things.  If the cops are flashing lights in your eyes, you’re not only going to find a way to escape it, but to reflect it back onto them.  If you can’t get in the front door or the window or even the sewer, you’ll find another way.  Your generation, or more so, our generation, has that unique ability that many other generations don’t possess – and it’s going to be an awesome tool for activism and change.”
After our half hour talk, I realized that I probably picked the best person I could have at Occupy Los Angeles.  Slightly older than the Generation Y demographic, he is one that is able to look upon are age group with hope and inspiration; David knows, and can see, the awesome tools that we take for granted.
“When it comes down to it,” said David, “they can arrest us tonight and we’ll be back tomorrow.  They can arrest us the next day and we’ll be back and so on. I don’t think people realize that.”
As I left, I realized that the first step of any movement of standing your ground; even if you are knocked, dragged or pulled away.  And quite honestly, the saying is true:  you can arrest a person, but you can't arrest an idea.

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