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What was Occupy LA really protesting?

Wall Street Protest Spreads To Other Cities

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Protesters hold signs after a march to Los Angeles City Hall during the "Occupy Los Angeles" demonstration in solidarity with the ongoing "Occupy Wall Street" protest in New York City on October 1, 2011 in Los Angeles.

Wall Street Protest Spreads To Other Cities

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Signs showing "Sister Cities" stand in front of Los Angeles City Hall after a protest march during the "Occupy Los Angeles"demonstration in solidarity with the ongoing "Occupy Wall Street" protest in New York City on October 1, 2011 in Los Angeles.

Howard Gerber joined OccupyLA last night after camping out at Occupy San Diego on and off for the past few weeks

Occupy LA

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Protestors check out the police helicopters above OccupyLA

Occupy the Night

For nearly two months, OccupyLA protesters have held their ground on the lawn of City Hall. As winter approaches, getting through the night has become a significant test.

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Protesters marching Downtown L.A. for "Occupy L.A."

Occupy LA protestors march through the d

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Occupy LA protestors march through the downtown Los Angeles financial district on "Bank Transfer Day," November 5, 2011. Bank Transfer Day, created by the Occupy movement, is a national effort to get people to move their money from large corporate banks into smaller banks or credit unions. AFP PHOTO / Robyn Beck (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)

Bank Transfer Day

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Police maintain a presence outside of a Bank of America branch on Saturday, November 5, 2011 just a few blocks from Occupy L.A.'s encampment at City Hall.

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Hundreds of Occupy protesters gathered in downtown L.A. for a march through the financial district.

Occupy LA

Eric Richardson / Blogdowntown

Participants in Occupy Los Angeles rally on the steps of City Hall after marching from Pershing Square on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2011.

Frank Stoltze/KPCC

LAPD Chief Charlie Beck at Occupy L.A.

Occupy is Out at City Hall

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Police raided the Occupy encampment at City Hall arresting 200, and little of the protesters' preparations came to use in the largely peaceful raid.

Los Angeles Police Move In To Evict Occupy LA Encampment

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Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa talks to members of the media in front of City Hall in downtown in the early hours of November 30, 2011 in Los Angeles.Protesters remained on the City Hall lawn despite a deadline, set by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, to dismantle their campsite and leave the park which the city declared closed as of 12:01 am November 28th. 1400 members of the Los Angeles Police raided the park this morning and removed or arrested all of the Occupy LA protesters.

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The morning after L.A. raided and cleared out the Occupy L.A. camp, city employees dragged tents from the lawn into dumpsters.


It's the one-year anniversary of the Occupy Movement, which started out innocuously enough in a park in lower Manhattan before sweeping across the nation and the world. In Los Angeles, we had our own Occupy experience, centered on City Hall downtown. It assembled a few weeks after the protesters in New York and held its ground until the end of November, when they were ejected by the LAPD. Along with way, Occupy L.A. distinguished itself as both the most peaceful of the major expressions of the movement in U.S. cities; and as the occupied city that saw the most cooperation between city government and the protecters (not surprising, given that City Hall is right across the street from police headquarters). 

The L.A. Times runs down what Occupy L.A. has been up to since. The answer is not a whole lot, although there have been periodic disruptions since last year:

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Backtrack: What is Occupy L.A. really protesting?

Los Angeles Dismantles Occupy LA Encampment

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Occupy LA protesters demonstrate on the front lawn of Los Angeles City Hall after the midnight deadline set by city officials to shut down the encampment expired on November 28, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. The Occupy Movement is planning to start a "Spring offensive" on May 1.

The Occupy Movement is getting ready to fire itself back up for what some are calling — maybe tongue in cheek, maybe not — a "spring offensive." The plan is to reassemble tomorrow, and the timing is transparent: It's May Day, the day when the workers of the world traditionally unite. Although the political right doesn't call them "workers" — it calls them "communists."

It doesn't seem to me that the basis for what the movement is protesting has changed all that much since the winter. So I'm reposting from back then what I wrote about Occupy L.A., which took over the lawns around City Hall for weeks, gained a fair amount of local support, protested relatively peacefully compared with Occupy efforts in other cities, and was then evicted by the authorities with some arrests. What are these folks still mad about? Read on...

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Should Occupy LA pay $400,000 to restore City Hall park?

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Occupy LA encampment the morning after Mayor Villaraigosa's eviction order went into effect.

The bill is in for Occupy LA. This is from AP:

A preliminary report by the Los Angeles city administrative officer estimates the nearly two-month Occupy LA encampment at City Hall cost the city at least $2.3 million...

[...]

But the report notes that the estimate does not include the cost of restoring City Hall park. A rough early estimate of restoring the park to its original condition was $400,000.

That's some not-inconsiderable coin. And it does raise an important question: Should Occupy LA, in as much as it's able, defray some of the cost? After all, Occupy Wall Street could make a mess in Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan, but a few high-pressure hoses, some disinfectant, and a small fleet of dump trucks could clean it up (after the protesters had left, of course). 

Occupy LA, on the other hand, camped out for weeks on what had been green(ish) grass. Which is now neither green nor grass anymore. 

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Will cleanup after Occupy LA be too expensive?

Occupy LA - December 3, 2011

Eric Richardson / blogdowntown

Protesters from Occupy LA walk down 1st Street in front of the closed-off City Hall park that they camped in for nearly two months before being removed on Tuesday.

Occupy LA - December 3, 2011

Eric Richardson / blogdowntown

Protesters from Occupy LA gather outside the Police Administration Building after marching from Pershing Square.

Los Angeles Police Move In To Evict Occupy LA Encampment

Michal Czerwonka/Getty Images

Members of the Los Angeles Police Department patrol the park in front of City Hall in downtown in the early hours of November 30, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. Protesters remained on the City Hall lawn despite a deadline, set by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, to dismantle their campsite and leave the park which the city declared closed as of 12:01 am November 28th.

Villaraigosa and Beck

Michal Czerwonka/Getty Images

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 30: Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck talks to members of the media in front of City Hall in downtown in the early hours of November 30, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. Protesters remained on the City Hall lawn despite a deadline, set by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, to dismantle their campsite and leave the park which the city declared closed as of 12:01 am November 28th. 1400 members of the Los Angeles Police raided the park this morning and removed or arrested all of the Occupy LA protesters. (Photo by Michal Czerwonka/Getty Images)

Los Angeles Police Move In To Evict Occupy LA Encampment

Michal Czerwonka/Getty Images

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 30: Members of the Los Angeles Hazmat team prepare to clean the park in front of City Hall in downtown in the early hours of November 30, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. Protesters remained on the City Hall lawn despite a deadline, set by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, to dismantle their campsite and leave the park which the city declared closed as of 12:01 am November 28th. 1400 members of the Los Angeles Police raided the park this morning and removed or arrested all of the Occupy LA protesters. (Photo by Michal Czerwonka/Getty Images)

Los Angeles Police Move In To Evict Occupy LA Encampment

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Los Angeles Police Department officers arrest a protester during the removal of the Occupy L.A. tent encampment outside City Hall in the early hours of November 30, 2011 in Los Angeles California.

Los Angeles Police Move In To Evict Occupy LA Encampment

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Los Angeles Police Department officers arrest a protester during the removal of the Occupy L.A. tent encampment outside City Hall in the early hours of November 30, 2011 in Los Angeles California.

Occupy LA - November 29, 2011

Eric Richardson / blogdowntown

Arrested protesters from the Occupy LA movement are lined up on a curb next to the Police Administration Building while they are questioned.

Los Angeles Police Move In To Evict Occupy LA Encampment

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Los Angeles Police Department officers raid Occupy Los Angeles campsite in the front lawn of Los Angeles City Hall in the early hours of November 30, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. Protesters have remained remained on the City Hall lawn despite a deadline, set by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, to dismantle their campsite and leave the park which the city declared closed as of 12:01 am November 28th.

Occupy LA - November 29, 2011

Eric Richardson / blogdowntown

LAPD officers in riot gear block off the intersection of 1st and Broadway, separating protesters inside the line from those on the outside of it at the start of enforcement actions to clear the Occupy LA camp at City Hall.


That kind of depends on how you price freedom of expression and assembly. Of course, you could argue that Occupy LA didn't need to freely express itself and assemble for quite so long on the lawn surrounding City Hall. According to the Los Angeles Times' L.A. Now blog, the cost of cleanup could hit $1 million

That's in the context of a city budget deficit that's projected to hit $200 million for the fiscal year.

So let's say it does cost $1 million to make City Hall look fresh and new again. That won't seem like much when the cost of cleaning up after the recent wind storm is taken into account. Pasadena and LA together could wind up spending $5-6 billion to take care of that mess. 

Still, Occupy is going to need to be mindful of these costs moving forward. America's large cities are facing post-financial crisis budget struggles. The movement probably understands that there are costs that people are willing to tolerate, associated with the exercise of rights. But people also have limits, when costs rise too high.

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Occupy LA: Time to go — peacefully

Los Angeles Dismantles Occupy LA Encampment

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Occupy LA protesters demonstrate on the front lawn of Los Angeles City Hall after the midnight deadline set by city officials to shut down the encampment expired on November 28, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on Friday gave the protesters outside City Hall until 12:01 am Monday to dismantle their campsite and leave. This morning, although some arrests were made, police have not yet cleared the camp.

Los Angeles Dismantles Occupy LA Encampment

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 28: Los Angeles Police Officers in riot gear deploy around the Los Angeles City Hall after the deadline to dismantle the occupy campsite expired on November 28, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa last week gave the protesters outside City Hall until 12:01 am today to dismantle their protest campsite and leave. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Los Angeles deadline for dismantling Occupy LA Encampment passes

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 27: Occupy LA protesters block the streets around Los Angeles City Hall before the midnight deadline by Los Angeles city officials to shut down the encampment on November 27, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on last week gave the protesters outside City Hall until 12:01 am today to dismantle their protest campsite and leave. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Occupy LA

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Mike Ferry yawns after a long night showing down with the police

Occupy LA

Michal Czerwonka/Getty Image

A member of Occupy LA camps out in a tree after the midnight deadline set by city officials to shut down the encampment expired in front of City Hall in downtown on November 28, 2011 in Los Angeles.

Los Angeles Dismantles Occupy LA Encampment

Michal Czerwonka/Getty Images

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 28: Members of the Los Angeles Police Department wearing riot gear ride on the sides of trucks after the midnight deadline set by city officials to shut down the encampment expired in front of City Hall in downtown on November 28, 2011 in Los Angeles. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa last week gave the protesters outside City Hall until 12:01 am today to dismantle their campsite and leave. This morning, although some arrests were made, police have not yet cleared the camp. (Photo by Michal Czerwonka/Getty Images)

Occupy LA

Mae Ryan/KPCC

Protestors check out the police helicopters above OccupyLA


Of all major U.S. cities with Occupy movements, LA has been by far the most calm — and the city government has been the most accommodating. The City Council voted early on to support the movement, while Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has affirmed the protesters right to assemble, as well as nodded favorably toward their cause. The city also gave the movement a lot of time to prepare for what was supposed to be a departure today from its encampment at City Hall.

But they're still there. And filing a lawsuit to stick around.

To borrow a line from "Gladiator," some people should know when they're conquered. Or, more accurately, when they're been treated with kid gloves for an exceptionally long period of time. To its credit, LA is taking the sluggishness of the Occupy departure/non-departure in stride. That's consistent with how the city has dealt with Occupy so far.

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