Week 6 of the LA 'Occupation' was full of surprises, including visits from Bill Maher, Jesse Jackson, and unfortunately more police brutality. You can read Griff Fuller Jr.'s full report here. During week 7, a major National Day of Action took place, along with more biased media coverage, incidents with the LAPD and wonderful acts of solidarity to help bail out some of the protesters who had been arrested. Below is Griff Fuller Jr.'s account of what happened.
Report by Griff Fuller Jr.
I started off the week returning home. I briefly dropped by Amoeba Music in Hollywood and returned to my Occupy tent to grab the last of my belongings before leaving. I took a couple days off and returned Wednesday evening just in time for the General Assembly. The Occupy Los Angeles GA meetings are known to go on for hours, but that night it was concise and brief. During the GA that night there was an incident with ABC Channel 7 news shining a bright light directly into our meeting. At first we thought that it was LAPD, so a small crowd of people went to go see what it was. That was the moment that I got to see for myself how much media politics is involved in our coverage. The local news channels in Los Angeles have consistently misrepresented us, portraying us in a negative light at every opportunity. The ABC 7 employees reflected those sentiments that night. We went to see where the source of the light was coming from and very defensively the cameraman said "These guys don't want us here." We replied, "No, we do want the press to cover us, we just don't want a bright light shining right into the GA meeting." The assistant cameraman was much more confrontational and overly-defensive and accused us of being a mob. I called him out on it, words were exchanged, and that incident ended with him moving away from me after threatening to kick his ass. I just didn't appreciate some spoiled snobby backup cameraman with an ego talking down to us and treating us like we were vicious animals, and directly insulting me. I didn't care if he was employed by ABC 7 or not, a man disrespecting my person and belittling me does not sit well with me, and that's why I defended myself. The cameramen moved up the street from where they were parked and we returned back to the GA. It became very clear to me that some of the media people that come down to cover us already have strong biases against us, our movement, and our principles.
The next morning I woke up at 6am to prepare for a National Day of Action. Initially, I was critical about us having a march at 6:30am believing that we wouldn't have enough dedicated people to participate; I was wrong. I participated in walking around the camp doing mic checks to gather people up and encourage them to come participate. We didn't get the several hundred that we have actively camping there, but we did manage to gather approximately between 60-70 people. We marched down to 3rd and Grand where we met up with literally thousands of other activists from labor unions and other workers' rights organizations, many from South Central and the inner-city. As soon as the LA Occupiers arrived to the demonstration I posted to Facebook: "Downtown LA is so live right now. How do you get over 1,000 people to protest before 7am? We are dead serious!" We marched as a massive crowd through downtown Los Angeles and arrived to the World Trade Center building across the street from the Marriot. Most of the activists lined up along the sidewalk, chanting and demonstrating while others sacrificed themselves for arrest by remaining in the street (which had been shut down for any through traffic for the march). LA Occupiers carried three tents with them during the march as a symbol for us occupying City Hall. Those tents were placed in the middle of the street and the protesters willing to be arrested formed a chain around them; they were later taken into custody. I covered the demonstration for Occupy LA Media livestreaming from my cell phone to an audience of over 10,000 viewers. City Hall occupiers decided to return back to City Hall; our participation in the demonstration was in solidarity with the labor unions who had organized that march. On the march back there were minor confrontations with LAPD officers, but no one was arrested on that particular march. However, some of our occupiers were arrested along with some of the labor workers back in the Financial District.
We held an emergency GA meeting on the South-side and decided that we would continue our march at noon. We left from City Hall for the second round of demonstrating, meeting up with the labor folks on Broadway. We were in the thousands once again and LAPD showed up in large and unnecessary numbers, After the majority of the labor crowd lagged behind the City Hall occupiers who led the march, we were strategically separated and quarantined on the sidewalk by LAPD. They held us up for about 30 minutes, blocking all paths of exiting, and threatened to pretty much beat anyone that tried to pass through, except the few innocent pedestrians unassociated with the demonstration who wanted to get out. After a few occupiers talked to head officer to negotiate us being able to leave the space, the LAPD officers retreated and were cheered away. The quarantine incident divided the crowd and split up the majority of the City Hall marchers. Most of us reassembled as we arrived back to the Bank of America Plaza in the Financial District. Shortly after arriving, some familiar faces from City Hall rushed into the Plaza's park area with tents planning to occupy that space in front of Bank of America. The sprinklers were turned on, but we remained. A large circle of protesters formed a chain around the 15-or-so tents that were set up. LAPD blocked off Grand and called in the riot squad. Officers stood across from us with tear gas canisters and rubber bullet rifles, ready to attack us. At 4:10pm we were told, if we didn't disperse they would move in on us, possibly tear-gas us. We broke out with our vinegar solution and rags ready to defend ourselves against their potential attacks leading up to that time. After 4:10 the officers made everyone leave the grass who was not willing to risk arrest and surrounded around the 20 or so occupiers forming a human chain around the tents. I was Ustreaming at the time and made the conscience decision to not get arrested that day. I jumped down from the grass area onto the lower platform where all of the other hundreds of protesters were, chanting in solidarity for our brothers and sisters who were about to get arrested. The LAPD removed the tents and tried to block the view of the crowd so we couldn't see what they were doing. They formed a barricade preventing anyone to return to the grass area or to film what was going on up-close. I Ustreamed live from my phone until it got dark and there was no more visibility. I stood at the barricade trying to kick logic to officers about how unethical their actions were. I was told later that the officers placed their hands on the throats of some who were arrested to apply pressure to their temples, make them pass out to stop them from locking arms. After a rumor about City Hall being raided spread through the crowd, some occupiers, including myself, returned to our camp site, Everything was normal back there, and I felt awful about leaving the Financial District early.
During the General Assembly an attorney and some man claiming to have connections with the Lawyers Guild collected cash donations to bail out our brothers and sisters who were arrested. After the money was counted, myself and a small group of other occupiers and the gentlemen who collected the money walked over to the police precinct. After arriving, the lawyer grew frustrated with debating with occupiers about how we should bail out our comrades and took off to attend to personal duties. When he did that, he left the money in the possession of a guy who would be problematic throughout the night. He held the money hostage inside the police station and refused to let us bail out our brothers and sisters claiming that we were going against the GA's will with the way we prioritized bailing people out. The remaining occupiers (including a woman who had recently gotten out of jail herself and decided to spend the night helping to bail out her fellow occupiers) decided that we would bail out the women first since they were going to be transferred to another jail across the county in the morning. We didn't want them to get split up, separated, or lost in the system. This individual who claimed to be connected to the Lawyers Guild complicated things, kept us there all night long into the morning with his defiance and forced us to pull from other resources to bail people out. One of the most astounding things I've seen since the movement started was people just coming out of jail, donating money that they had on them to help bail out other occupiers, and staying until they were released. The troublemaker claimed to had used the money to bail out a female with a higher bond, after we all left. He cemented himself in a seat at the station all night, watching over the money. I personally tried to snatch it from him and he threatened to have me arrested. The officers placed the handcuffs too tight on many of the arrested protesters. An 83 year old man, named Paul, was arrested with the group of younger protesters. The officers put the handcuffs on him so tight that his wrists were bleeding. After we bailed him out of jail, I saw that his wrists were heavily bruised and discolored. We were at the station from 10pm to about 9am in the morning. Me and the folks who were bailed out went to grab breakfast after leaving the station.
There were no actions planned for later that day. From Twitter and Facebook, I found out about the police brutality across the nation, particularly in Northern California at UC Davis. I was sick to my stomach seeing some of the images of my fellow comrades being pepper sprayed directly in the face and beaten until bloody. LAPD intimidated us all weekend by flying its helicopter over our camp area literally all-night long and shining its lights down on us. At one point, the light landed right over my tent. At Friday's General Assembly the arrested occupiers gave a detailed report about their experiences and tips to other occupiers who may be arrested in the near-future. Saturday night's General Assembly had returned back to the petty bickering and bureaucratic nonsense that makes me want to not attend sometimes. Also, a small group of drummers defiantly drummed in front of the GA meeting for over an hour. But one great thing that did come out of the arrests was a new affinity group that will help bail out occupiers in the future, so an incident like what happened with the asshole in the police station won't happen again.