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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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...
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.
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.
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.