The Breakdown

Explaining Southern California's economy

Why is Occupy LA so much more calm — and successful — than other Occupy movements?

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The news broke earlier today that Occupy LA has been offered a pretty sweet deal by the city to clear its tents from the lawn around City Hall. In return, the two-month-old protest movement — which has been for the most part a model of peaceful agitation — will get 10,000 feet of nearby office space.

For $1!

Oh, and the city is evidently throwing in some farmland.

Yes, farmland.

For Occupy LA protesters who might, you know, want to work the land.

This is a remarkable development, for three reasons:

  • Occupy LA, unlike its far more belligerent cousins in the Bay Area, is beginning to shift into something of an entrepreneurial mode. It trades tents, dead grass, and cold nights space! Occupy LA, in short, is starting to organize itself like a business, or at least a more conventional political movement, with the eminently practical goal of moving its operations indoors.
  • Occupy is also proving that the ostensibly leaderless movement can throw up some quasi-leaders. Members of Occupy LA have clearly been negotiating with the city, and while this is ticking off the movement's hardcore elements, it's a welcome evolution.
  • The farming thing is strange, but also consistent with the ethos of earlier protest movements — such as those that emerged in the 1960s — which often had a communal, agrarian component. 

Los Angeles has been exceptionally tolerant, and at times overtly supportive, of Occupy. The City Council has gotten behind the protesters. And of course the City Hall encampment is right across the street from police headquarters. Law enforcement strolls by Occupy LA all day long. OK, we don't have a Hipster Cop. Yet. But the protesters and the fuzz seem to have gotten used to each other.

Now the city appears to have partnered with the movement to come up with an innovative way to take back City Hall without having to resort to anything like what has happened in Oakland or at UC Davis. Why use pepper spray, as a UC Davis cop infamously did last Friday, to clear protesters when you can offer then available, unoccupied real estate for, like, nothing? Carrot beats stick most of the time.

Ultimately, this means that Occupy LA could have greater staying power than other Occupy locations. In fact, with this level of organization, along with cooperation from city government, Occupy LA could become the movement's base of operations moving forward.

FYI, here's a chance to meet the people who make up Occupy LA, courtesy of our crack video team at KPCC:

Follow Matthew DeBord and the DeBord Report on Twitter.

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