Protesters set up camp in front of Los Angeles City Hall
Inspired by the anti-corporate Occupy Wall Street demonstrations in New York, several hundred protesters set up camp in front of Los Angeles City Hall this weekend, saying they are there to stay.
Saturday night's sleep-in followed a march and rally earlier in the day Saturday by a loosely organized group called Occupy Los Angeles.
Tents and blankets dotted the lawn in front of City Hall on Sunday, as people came and went from the encampment. Some stood on the sidewalk holding signs or, in the case of one protester, playing a bagpipe, while others sprawled on blankets in the shade, painted signs, or sat in a circle for impromptu strategy sessions. Occasional passing cars honked in support.
The movement generally takes issue with corporate influence on government. Many protesters carried signs with variations on the slogan "We are the 99%" -- everyone, that is, except the richest 1% of the population, who the demonstrators contend are the only beneficiaries of America's economic policies.
Most said they had heard about the Occupy Los Angeles protest via Twitter and Internet sites such as Tumblr and Reddit.
Blake Digangi, 20, a community college student from Menifee, said he heard about the Occupy Wall Street protests from friends in New York.
"I started looking at YouTube videos and got really fascinated by it," Digangi said. Although he said he's "not really an activist," Digangi and his cousin, Logan Riley, 23, of Murrieta, said that as students, they are frustrated by the lack of jobs and opportunities they see before them. The two drove to Los Angeles for the march Saturday and spent the night camped out in sleeping bags on the sidewalk.
"I always wanted to be around in the 60s when this kind of stuff was going on, and even though it is on a smaller scale, it’s still cool to observe," Digangi said.
Supporters who had not stayed the night stopped by to check out the scene Sunday. One of them, Joshua Wright, 27, a U.S. Army veteran, held a sign reading "4,477=99%" -- referring to the number of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq.
"I’m here because I did two tours in Iraq, and I saw a lot of people die," he said. "Why? Why did they die? The answer is they died for corporate America, so it’s time to bring a change."
Jeremy Lahoud, 39, a community organizer from South Los Angeles, brought his 5-year-old daughter Adila to downtown to see the gathering.
"I want a world where my daughter is recognized, her voice," he said.
Protesters who stayed the night said police asked them to move from the grass to the sidewalk at 10:30 p.m. Saturday night and from the pavement back to the lawn at 6 a.m. Sunday.
LAPD spokeswoman Officer Rosario Herrera said Sunday afternoon that police had not arrested any protesters and that there had been no reports of disturbances. Whether and how police will allow protesters to continue camping in front City Hall is under negotiation, she said.
Meanwhile, some streets downtown were taken over Sunday by a parade of artists and activists expressing similar sentiments, but organized separately. The Trespass Parade, part of the Getty-sponsored initiative Pacific Standard Time: Art in L.A. 1945-1980, brought colorful floats and marchers through the streets of downtown wearing shirts and carrying signs with pro-immigration and anti-corporate sentiments.
The parade tied up traffic, closing a long stretch of Broadway and side streets.
Reina Alejandra Prado, a poet and performance artist, marched wearing a long red dress to which were attached slips of paper bearing "love petitions" to her character, dubbed Santa Perversa.
"For me, my participation is about really reclaiming space," Prado said.
-- Abby Sewell
Photo: 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 Oct. 1. Credit: Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images