Occupy L.A. campers play, pray as city’s midnight deadline looms
The last officially sanctioned day of Occupy L.A. began much like others in the seven-week occupation of the green space around City Hall. Campers and demonstrators kicked balls, played drums, strategized, taught and prayed.
The encampment faces a midnight deadline to clear out. Police have vowed to treat demonstrators respectfully and make any necessary arrests with a minimum of force while enforcing the deadline, which was set by L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
Protesters also speak of avoiding violent confrontation, but substantial numbers are expected to resist removal. Both sides are nervous after rough episodes at similar encampments nationwide, including in New York and Oakland and on the UC Davis campus.
In a makeshift interfaith sanctuary at the L.A. site, Jim Tessmar led a Sunday morning prayer service for a congregation of three, reciting the Lord’s Prayer. He also read from the Gospel of Matthew, a passage that speaks of depending on God and not worrying about tomorrow. Participants sang a hymn and accepted pieces of "unity bread."
"My intention in the next 24 to 48 hours is whatever happens here is done peacefully," Tessmar said.
He has come to the encampment several times a week to lead services and deliver donations of toilet paper, water and other items.
Nearby, beating a drum on the south lawn, was Alex, 43.
He said that five years ago he earned $2,200 a week as an Internet video and telephone technician. Several times, he said, the company laid off staff members and then brought them back at lower pay. He made $500 a week before he was laid off for good.
He lost his home in Beaumont and his car and remains jobless and homeless.
“I came here to work for economic justice,” said Alex, who did not give his last name. “We need a new system. This is a movement to save humanity.”
What will he do if police move in as expected?
“Exactly what I’m doing now,” he said, as he continued to beat his drum.
Chad Knutsen, 23, and several friends were still working to expand the reach of Occupy L.A. — vertically.
They dragged wooden pallets up steps on the south side of City Hall. They were planning to erect a tree house “to be level with the mayor’s office and look him in the eye.”
Knutsen has been on site since Oct. 1. He appeared unfazed by the mayor’s ultimatum.
“I’m not worried about it at all,” he said. “We are the kings and queens of this land. I won’t resist, but if I see police are assaulting unarmed and peacefully resisting citizens I will defend that protester.”
— Teresa Watanabe and Howard Blume
Photo: Addison Lee Puffelis meditates in "the temple of collective consciousness" tent on the City Hall lawn Saturday morning. Credit: Arkasha Stevenson / Los Angeles Times