LOS ANGELES — The Occupy Wall Street protestshave migrated across the country, landing in Los Angeles.
On Saturday morning, hundreds of protestors gathered in Downtown LA for a peaceful march and, for some, the beginning of an overnight occupation. Like the protesters in New York, who have occupied Wall Street since mid-September, or the protesters in San Francisco, who surrounded a Bank of America, Angelenos gathered around the most visible symbol of power they could find — City Hall.
The crowd, which one protester’s sign said represented the “other 99%” of America, was a mix of families with young children, self-described members of the working class, white-collar professionals, the jobless, students and boomers.
Andrew Prediletto, a member of National Nurses United who came with his wife and four children, told The Huffington Post, “It’s time for Wall Street to pay for the damage that they’ve done to main street.” His 10 year old son Hunter chimed in: “I heard from my Dad about how Wall Street takes money away from poor people, and that’s really messed up.”
Jeff Moore, who dressed up as the Grim Reaper, said simply, “We’ve got to take back America from the corporatocracy.”
Matt Hollingsworth, who held a sign about belonging to the “top 10%” income bracket, explained, “what the bottom 25% doesn’t realize is that most in the top 10 percent agree with them. His friend Francis Della Vecchia agreed with his message, saying, “I invite everybody to join us, even the Tea Party. Because their interests are aligned with ours,” not with the nation’s wealthiest.
“Thank you Arab Spring,” Della Vecchia added. “Welcome American Autumn.”
Barring an obvious financial district, and perhaps not wanting to direct the protests at just one bank, Occupy LA explained the reasons for gathering at City Hall in a blog published earlier this week:
City Hall and the surrounding Civic Center are strategic locations for many reasons, we are on the front doorstep of government, albeit city government, it is located in the heart of the city and it is within a few short blocks of an area downtown know as Banker’s Hill where several large banks have either corporate headquarters of [sic] regional branches.
The organizers’ demands include the “separation of corporations and state” and “a government that actually works for the people,” as well as solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street protesters. But despite their stated goal, the action was also made up of groups of disparate causes and organizations, much like the other protests across the country.
People across the City Hall lawn called for everything from the reenactment of the Glass-Steagall Act to Ron Paul for president to the abolishment of the United Nations, a “fascist, one-world government.” But despite the variety of pet projects, the crowd seemed absolutely united against the villains of the moment — those who got richer after the recent worldwide recession.
The scene resembled a summertime street festival. Families with young children brought picnic blankets and snacks. Enterprising vendors rolled their carts down to Spring Street and 2nd Avenue, selling ice-cold water bottles and bacon-wrapped hotdogs. A huge truck across the street blared soul music out of speakers on the roof of the vehicle, and artists were setting up their easels to paint their interpretations of the protest.
Organizers didn’t apply for a permit for a march, but none was needed as long as protesters stuck to the sidewalks and left space for other pedestrians. Emilio Arreola, one of the protest organizers, was in charge of security for the day and spent the morning shooing people off the streets and off the steps of City Hall once police put up some yellow caution tape. “I’m really proud of everyone that came down here today. This has gone off without a hitch, which is phenomenal,” said Arreola. “The police have been absolutely awesome… They’ve been 100 percent behind us — and the fire department too.” Arreola also said the march had been so orderly, a couple of police units were pulled off duty from the event.
Louis Esparza, a sociologist professor at Cal State Los Angeles, was there to take notes on the nascent occupation. “The seems more like an event than like a movement,” observed Esparza, “but we shall see.”