Occupy Los Angeles: M17—Anniversary Festival/Queer-Themed GA/HRC Action

On Saturday, March 17, Occupy Los Angeles set out to hold a small celebration to honor the six-month anniversary of Occupy Wall Street.

On an extremely large sidewalk, Occupiers gathered to eat, socialize and celebrate. However, within the first hour, LAPD was on hand to walk through the gathering to instigate either arrests or just plain ol’ escalation. I arrived to find at least 20-25 officers directly amongst the crowd, some standing in formation, so passing through them was not an option.

There were two medium size tents erected along the sidewalk (farthest from the street) that officers said would have to come down, due to the fact that they were blocking a park entrance. It was a well-known fact that the park and its entrances were closed, and would not be open to the public that weekend. Officers, still among the crowd, and walking through it rather forcefully, would not relent, and Occupiers acquiesced and removed the tents. Even with compliance, and still breaking no laws, LAPD remained close by. At one point, it became obvious that one officer was wearing sunglasses with a hidden camera.

A short while after—LAPD still remaining on scene, and still provocative in demeanor—the commanding officer on scene walked through the main Occupy crowd which had gathered, as he intended to arrest an individual for entering the park premises. He forcefully made his way through the crowd, other officers in tow,  pushing and shoving people with no regard to anyone’s safety. They apprehended the individual and in a short amount of time, he was face down on the pavement—a sign of unnecessary force. This riled the Occupiers to no end; however, they were still at the mercy of batons being swung and officers grabbing and shoving people violently. At this point, only the arrestee’s head was visible (below the crowd and officers). In pain, he yelled, “they’re breaking my arm!” Throughout the skirmish, three more individuals were arrested. “Trespassing,” especially during daylight hours, and in a public park, last time I checked, doesn’t warrant a violent arrest. That day, the LAPD were on hand to provoke, disrespect and instigate—that much was obvious.

More officers arrived on scene, and many were in riot gear. They formed a line just below the curb and kept all people forcefully on the sidewalk. A step off the curb, or too close for an officer’s liking, would have resulted in a baton in your chest or stomach. Some officers poised their batons inches from chests and stomachs, as though any Occupiers had threatened violence.

Outraged, Occupiers demanded badge numbers and officer’s names. It seemed as though LAPD would now all but consider the sidewalk a crime scene, and keep their “do not cross” lines; however, they departed faster than they arrived. The commanding officer, who had earlier made the first arrest, was in particular haste to leave the scene. As he climbed in his marked SUV to leave, Occupiers blocked the vehicle, demanding a badge number and name. At this point, the officer seemed somewhat frantic and in a panic. He threw his SUV in reverse, hit the gas hard, and drove all the way down Main St. towards 1st St. in reverse (surely, an illegal act). There remained a handful of officers, but all vacated the premises soon after the SUV tore down a very public road in reverse.

Indignant at the event that had just unfolded, the idea to march to the nearest metro detention center was consensed upon, and the march began.

We were met with officers both at the entrance and exit of the detention center, and in full riot gear. It was made clear we had come because we did not consent to—nay, we rejected—the actions of the LAPD, and it’d be known.
After 20 minutes, give or take a few, we all headed to Pershing Square via the middle of the street. Both angry, passionate and somewhat victorious, chants of “Whose streets?! Our streets! (among other things) echoed off walls of buildings. They certainly were…

After waiting for drummers to arrive, our decently large group of roughly 50-60 people set out towards the L.A. Live premises in downtown in preparation for the HRC (Human Rights Campaign) action, bringing light to the fact that Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein had recently been chosen as a spokesperson for marriage equality.

We marched through traffic, up along Figueroa St., and turned down a small side street off Olympic Blvd. to hold that evening’s Queer-themed GA. Police had made a noticeable presence on Olympic Blvd., and, since we were on a cul-de-sac, some voiced worries of being kettled. It was mainly a squad of bike officers that were sent to tend to the investigation of our plans, but remained on Olympic Blvd., and never once came down the cul-de-sac. They grew bored quickly once they learned nothing “exciting” was going to happen.

After people prepping for the HRC action with dressing in white hazmat suits donning statements like: “Danger: Do not enter. HRC toxic to equality, a march to the target hotel (the J.W. Marriot) commenced, where a large fundraiser would held.

From Occupy Los Angeles Queer Affinity Group handout:

We have chosen to focus on HRC’s alliance with Goldman Sachs, and the selection of Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein as a spokesperson for marriage equality, as a most clearly evident manifestation of this disconnect with our community. To honor a corporation that many feel is criminally responsible for the economic disenfranchisement of so many working people, a corporation that has recently been described as having a “culture that is toxic and destructive” by one of its own departing executive directors, and to select a CEO who compensation was $53M in 2007…as spokesperson for ANY kind of equality is not only tone deaf to the injustice many working and poor LGBTQ individuals have faced as a result of these practices—it’s just plain offensive.

Occupiers took a short jaunt up Olympic Blvd. and posted up to the entrance of the J.W. Marriot, in plain view of all traffic coming in—both pedestrian and vehicle. Many onlookers took interest in what the protest was about, some even asking for literature. Many people spoke, many people listened, and the word was spread that HRC’s newest spokesperson for marriage equality, was, in fact, not the right person to elect to represent any form of equality—especially that of marriage.

It was more than unfortunate that four people fell victim to LAPD’s oppression that day; however,  I think most would say that the events that followed were a success.

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