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David Freid Headshot

Occupying on Deadline

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While most of us were sleeping last Wednesday morning, the LAPD fulfilled their promise to evict and clear out the Occupy LA encampment at City Hall. As if cheering the move, stocks soared on Wall Street a few hours later.

Occupy LA won a battle last Monday when, buoyed by additional supporters, citizen journalists, curious passersby, adventure tourists, and a handful of weekend anarchists, they managed to extend their deadline, and hold on to that tiny piece of public parkland for another day.

That Monday morning was filled with media excitement, as everyone waited to see how the standoff between police and protestors would shake out. But as one deadline passed, and then another, members of the salaried and not-so-salaried news outlets covering the event started getting desperate in their coverage.

I witnessed a few bored members of the press corps swarm a man holding a trash bag, picking up trash. This neat-freak was just as surprised as I to hear his number called for those 15 minutes of fame. As I was there with camera in hand, I too surrendered to the absurdity of the moment, and snapped a shot. (I have not included this photo below.)

Eventually, sometime just before the morning commute, the LAPD made their move. They methodically corralled the protestors off the streets and back into the park with minimal resistance. And when the sun rose, and the staring contest ended, the Occupation remained.

But their 61 day streak ended last Wednesday. For two months they camped and marched and did whatever they could to bring attention to their cause. And in the end, they got the attention, but did they state their cause?

I was there the first day LA took to the lawn in support of Occupy Wall Street, before the committed campers staked their first tent. I saw a diverse crowd, with an equally diverse agenda, rallying together in support of... something.

Like Soul Asylum said from some grungy corner of the '90s, "nothing attracts a crowd like a crowd." As the crowd grew, and the movement spread from city to city, and across the pond, the goals of Occupy became diluted.

But even through the haze of arguments, ranging from human rights violations to unsustainable agricultural practices to legalizing pot, the loudest voice still chanted its dissatisfaction with our government's perceived double-standards and favoritism toward that now infamous 1 percent.

"Banks got bailed out, we got sold out."

Unfortunately, most interviews I've seen coming out of Occupy haven't been able to distill the concept succinctly enough to really make sense of that slogan. And I'm not sure the fair and balanced media has tried very hard to figure it out either.

But it's impossible not to notice that people have taken notice. This is a big step. Even with a clear agenda, it's no small feat to rally such an internationally supported movement. The next step, and perhaps this just needs a little more time to evolve, is to help define for the rest of the 98.9 percent of the country what it is that they're Occupying for.

The main thing. The big one. The grievance that must be separated from all other grievances, and taken care of first.

As I write this, strong Santa Ana winds are tossing all manner of tree-fueled detritus my way. Local Chumash called these the Devil Winds, because of a superstition that they caused strange behavior in people. Or maybe it's because of all the brush fires that flare up in their wake.

Either way, perhaps the tents would have just blown away by now anyway. Maybe it takes Mayor V. and his LAPD to make a move like they have to awaken some strange behavior in the Occupiers. A phrase I keep hearing from friends, "they can't Occupy forever," is certainly worth some consideration. After all, people tend to get more done when they're on deadline.

Keep your eyes peeled, as gross of an expression as that is, for any fires that might ignite now that the tents have blown away.

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