The Occupation of Los Angeles - Part 8 - 11/11/2011
Traffic Jams for the Revolution!
On Friday - Veterans Day - Nov. 11th, I stopped by Occupy LA just in time to join up with a group of "occupiers" who were heading out to "have a dance party in the street". Our leader was a pleasant looking young woman with feathers hanging from her ears and a megaphone in her hand.
She marched around the park calling for people to come join our "party in the streets". After about 20 minutes she managed to muster up a rabble of approximately 40 or so. It was a mixed group - there were a handful of anarchist types with bandanas around their faces, a few angry young Latino-Communists, a couple of hippies, four or five shady looking guys with shaved heads, punk rock girls with blue hair, some normal looking teenage girls, and a man with a giant psychedelic paper-mache chicken head.
And there was one guy trying real hard to look like Che Guevara.
Our leader explained to us that we were going to dance around in the middle of the street at busy intersections near freeway entrances in order to cause traffic jams. The purpose was to provoke the police into a confrontation, and to get on television. Some people at Occupy L.A. are apparently suffering from some strange form of "police brutality envy". They’re frustrated that they haven’t had the confrontation with the police that they so desperately need to fulfill the fantasy that they live in a fascist police state. They hear about Oakland and New York and wonder "why can’t I get pepper-sprayed or tear-gassed". It’s a strange form of inferiority complex that only radical Leftists, anarchists and certain types of hippies can understand.
So off we marched chanting "Viva La Revolucion!"
As we marched, a small group of Los Angeles bicycle police followed along behind us.
We marched right past the Los Angeles Times, but no reporters came out to document our little insurrection.
Eventually we came to the intersection of 8th St. and Figueroa, and our leader instructed us to "go party in the street". In the video below you can see the occupiers, chanting "Whose streets? Our streets", and walking out into the traffic. Although it’s difficult to see, at the end of this video clip a man in a suit and tie is chased into the office tower on the corner. Apparently he yelled something at the protesters, and like a mob they swarmed toward him as he ran into the building. A security guard quickly locked the doors.
They briefly stood in front of the building’s entrance chanting "Fuck men in suits! Fuck men in suits!" before the leader of our small band of revolutionaries lead them back out into the intersection, once again chanting "Whose street? Our street!"…
And without any sense of irony they chanted "This is what democracy looks like!" as they blocked people from driving home from work on a Friday afternoon.
Eventually a man got out of his car and confronted Che Guevara Jr. A little shoving ensued, but Che Jr. backed off.
Where were the police you might ask?…I don’t know. They rode their bikes down the street and just watched from a safe distance as the "occupiers" confronted drivers and screamed at pedestrians - often berating them, sometimes calling for them to get out of their cars and join the protest.
Eventually, after about 15 minutes of snarling up traffic, our leader called everyone over to the sidewalk and told them that we were heading to another intersection, that this was just a warm up. So off we went again chanting.
On the way to the next intersection they spotted a small Bank of America branch and instinctively started screaming and yelling and waving their fists.
It took a few minutes before they realized that the bank was closed for Veterans Day.
The next stop was 6th St and Figueroa, where there are both an entrance and an exit to and from the 110 Freeway. The protesters quickly occupied the intersection chanting "Free your mind, open your eyes!" - our bicycle police escort followed along and watched from a distance.
A few cars forced their way through, nearly running over protesters. Others were simply stuck. Traffic quickly backed up as far as the eye could see. Horns were honking. The police just sat there watching. Some drivers called out for the police to do something, but the police did nothing except watch, refusing to even respond to the drivers’ requests.
The girl pictured below would walk right up to cars and implore them to get out and join the protest, when they would refuse she would berate them with profanity.
This went on for about 20 minutes. Some of the protesters were nearly hit by cars that tried to push their way through, especially the man in the giant chicken head mask who wandered aimlessly into the path of oncoming vehicles. As you can see in the following video, police watched and made no attempt to clear the intersection. We were less than a mile from the LAPD’s main station, and bicycle officers had been monitoring this protest since we left City Hall Park, yet only three or four more police arrived on the scene.
Once again our leader called for everyone to move back to the sidewalk. When we were all assembled on the north-east corner she told us that we were now moving on to 3rd and Figueroa. It was a holiday and it was Friday, people were leaving work early, and she expected this intersection would cause the biggest traffic jam of the day, this being the route many people who work in the corporate towers of the financial district take to get on the freeway when leaving work. We marched onward chanting "Viva La Revolucion!" and "Power to the people!"
Our bicycle police escort stayed close by.
Just before the intersection, we stopped and gathered on the steps of an office building to hear a few words of inspiration from our leader. But as she was speaking, some lobby security inside the building wondering why a mob had gathered out front, stepped outside and stood in front of the doorway. As symbols of authority, they were immediately met with angry chants of "Shame! Shame! Shame!".
They clearly had no idea why people were yelling at them. After a minute or so we marched to our next destination, the intersection of 3rd and Figueroa.
Our escort stayed close at hand.
The intersection was occupied as soon as we reached it, the occupiers walking right through a line of police without regard. The police just turned and rode their bikes back to the corner.
Horns were blaring. Drivers tried to force their way through. Protesters were nearly run down. Traffic quickly backed up as far as I could see. It was chaos.
The police stood by and watched, apparently under orders to not intervene.
After about 20 minutes or more, our leader met with a few police officers in the middle of the intersection. I didn’t hear what was said because I was trying to stay in the crosswalk.
A moment later she called all the occupiers to the sidewalk.
With the police on the other side of the street she explained to us that because it was Veterans Day, anyone arrested would have to stay in jail until Monday or even Tuesday. A vote was taken and everyone decided to go back to camp.
As we walked toward the 2nd St Tunnel, heading back to the OLA camp, the couple in front of me shared a joint - the smoke billowing behind them.
The police escorted everyone through the tunnel and back to City Hall Park.
Viva La Revolucion!
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