Thursday, December 1, 2011

Occupy LA encampment raided: Protesters’ preparation, arrests

*This article was originally published by the Viễn Đông on 1 December 2011. It was reported by Vanessa White.

LOS ANGELES, California—There was a human circle formed around a tent as protesters sat with their arms linked.
“We need more volunteers!” an organizer shouted, his call repeated by protesters and supporters in the circle as well as people in the surrounding crowd. “We need more people to get arrested!”
And just after midnight on 30 November 2011, approximately 1,400 Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) officers in full riot gear began arresting more than 200 Occupy LA protesters in front of LA City Hall.
The protesters had been told to evict the City Hall by 28 November 2011, yet hundreds remained.
Celebrating their 60th day “occupying” the City Hall and developing a community encampment, the protesters were participating in civil disobedience, defending what they believed was their right to occupy public property.
They acted in solidarity with the Occupy Movement that began in New York City’s Wall Street financial district as well as in San Francisco in September 2011.
Inspired by pro-democracy protests that spread throughout the Middle East and North Africa during spring 2011, the Occupy Movement has become international, largely reported as “leaderless” and “lacking demands,” though themes surrounding economic, political and social issues appear to be its focus.
“We are not a leaderless movement!” a protester shouted awaiting the LAPD’s arrival. “We are a movement of leaders!”
Leadership, preparation
They knew it was coming and were prepared.
Throughout the evening, Occupy LA protesters and their supporters held small break-out groups and a general assembly where a larger group received updates on a possible police raid and preparation for it, voiced concerns and questions, encouraged each other, as well as agreed on future action through consensus following votes.
Speakers, in the larger group as well as the break-out groups, spoke in three to five word intervals and had their words repeated by listeners in the groups. Anyone wishing to be heard yelled, “Mic check!”
“This is what democracy looks like!” the protesters shouted throughout the night.
There was an emphasis on peace and nonviolence as people in smaller groups chanted, sang, played guitars, drums, rapped, danced, smoked, talked among themselves, or just sat quietly watching others.
A couple of fights broke out between individuals, though they were quickly tempered as handfuls of protesters and supporters rushed to break them up.
Organizers asked the protesters and supporters to respect the community and remove any drugs, alcohol, or weapons from the encampment if they had any.
They were expecting a raid, as news of a massive LAPD gathering at nearby Dodger Stadium traveled to the encampment.
One woman told the Viễn Đông that she lives near the stadium and had seen helicopters above the field, as well as busses followed by news crews heading in the direction of the stadium.
This was where they would do their booking of arrestees she said.
Prepared for the raid and arrest, organizers informed protesters and supporters that the LAPD would arrest anyone still in front of City Hall after warnings to leave.
Everyone was given two choices. Anyone unwilling to be arrested did not have to stay but was asked to record and document as much of the raid and arrests as possible via video or photograph.
Anyone willing to get arrested, however, was instructed to refrain from resisting arrest.
Instead, they were to act peacefully and were encouraged to write the numbers to the National Lawyers Guild on their arms so they could receive legal help while in jail and possibly procure bail money.
While awaiting the raid, the protesters who planned on being arrested equipped themselves with gas masks or bandanas soaked in vinegar to protect as best they could against the possible tear gas or pepper spray the LAPD might use to disperse them.
Just before midnight, the LAPD arrived, blocking off the perimeter of City Hall.
Though there were protesters who angrily shouted at the police, there were other protesters who reminded them that the police officers were also part of the Occupy themed 99 percent, or the majority population economically, politically, and socially oppressed by the 1 percent, or wealthy individuals.
There were no injuries resulting from the arrests, nor did the initial sweep of the encampment result in any findings of illegal substances or weapons.
The encampment is being cleared of its tents, trash, art and protesters.
Though, perhaps not their message, not their history.
What next?
Although the mainstream media criticizes the Occupy Movement for lacking clear, concrete demands for change, the Occupy LA protesters generally believe they need to gather as much global support as possible before making any specific demands.
It is unclear exactly where the protesters will reconvene as a long-term community, though Occupy Orange County (OC) Irvine has reportedly welcomed them to join the Irvine encampment outside Irvine City Hall.
There were also protesters who said they will just return to LA City Hall, establishing consistent presence.

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