News Column

Occupy Movement Already on the Move

Nov. 30, 2011

Dakota Smith

occupy la

Ask protesters about the next evolution of Occupy LA -- which is being evicted from the City Hall lawn -- and you'll hear ideas as diverse as the group itself. They talk about forming a nonprofit, getting involved in the 2013 election, or simply getting office space to decide their next move.

But in the short term, many Occupy LA members say they're still focusing on the occupation itself. The powerful symbol of a tent that has defined their struggle will continue, they say -- just at a different location.

"The Cornfields in Chinatown, the federal building and foreclosed homes in South LA," said Occupy LA organizer Pete Thottam, rattling off a list of potential sites in an interview on Tuesday.

Already, it's believed that some Occupy LA participants are headed to Venice Beach, thanks to a sign posted by protesters outside City Hall detailing what bus routes to take to the neighborhood.

"They're coming with backpacks and sleeping bags," said City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, who said he can't be sure that the arrivals are definitely from Occupy LA.

As cities crack down on Occupy sites, the popularity -- at least in California -- hasn't waned. The Field Poll of California voters released on Tuesday found that 58 percent of voters agree with the underlying reason for the protest.

But lacking a plan for how to keep going, many are camping elsewhere, taking the advice of author Deepak Chopra, who spoke to a crowd at the Occupy LA site last week.

"If they come to evict us ... move someplace else close by and occupy," he urged the crowd. "Keep moving and keep occupying."

Thottam, a Yale graduate and attorney who refers to himself as "one of the unemployed, shrinking middle-class" just got back from talking to Occupy organizers in Denver to share tips on strategies and tactics.

Clark Davis, media coordinator for Occupy LA, said he would continue to attend the group's meetings in Venice, now held in the back of a store.

Disillusioned, Davis is done with sleeping in tents.

"We blew a fantastic opportunity," he said. "The city gave us everything ... and because of our inability to stay organized, we failed."

Davis believes a lack of leadership and "getting bogged down in the details" prevented Occupy LA from succeeding.

"At one point we were getting citations from the Health Department every morning for not having toilet paper (in the Port-o-Potty). We couldn't even develop a plan to have toilet paper."

Rosendahl, who says he supports the ideals of the movement, urged supporters on Tuesday to continue to raise issues like economic inequality.

The councilman hopes to create an ad hoc committee to deal with issues related to the 99 percent, the slogan adopted by Occupy protesters to represent financial inequality. Those issues could cover everything from banks to social services, he said.

"They have done an incredible job of bringing these issues to light," Rosendahl said.

But, he added, "I hope there's not another encampment."

Source: (c) 2011 the Daily News (Los Angeles)

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