Occupy L.A. speaks -- and says protesters aren't leaving
In their first official statement to the city of Los Angeles, Occupy Los Angeles protesters rejected a purported city proposal offering work space and land away from City Hall –- and vowed to stay camped out on the building's lawn until their grievances are addressed.
The statement comes after news that the lawn will be closed next week for rehabilitation. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, along with Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck, is expected to address the issue at a news conference at 4 p.m. Friday.
Since the protest began nearly two months ago, city officials have held regular meetings with several Occupy protesters, including a representative from the National Lawyers Guild. But other protesters have complained that those representatives don’t speak for everyone and have dismissed the meetings as going against the demonstration’s democratic principles and “horizontal” organizing structure.
The statement released Thursday was written collaboratively by several hundred protesters and was approved with 100% consensus during a nightly general assembly meeting, according to protester Ruth Fowler. The protesters plan to read it aloud at Tuesday’s Los Angeles City Council meeting.
In the statement, protesters reject an offer of incentives that city officials apparently proposed during a meeting with the Occupy representatives earlier this week, saying, “We cannot, in all good faith, accept further material benefit from City Hall at the taxpayer’s expense.”
The city’s proposal to protesters, as reported Monday by National Lawyers Guild Director Jim Lafferty, would have given them work space in a city building for $1 a year and land on which to garden, along with a promise to open more beds in homeless shelters. Lafferty said Tuesday that the city had then waffled on the offer.
City officials have remained tight-lipped about the talks with protesters. But a video of one of the meetings posted to YouTube on Wednesday gives insight into the complexity of the negotiations.
In it, Villaraigosa Deputy Chief of Staff Matt Szabo suggests that the leaderless structure of the protest has been a complicating force. “There was little ability, given the constructs of the decision-making body on your end of the table, to reach consensus about anything,” Szabo said.
But protester Jeremy Rothe-Kushel and others said that wasn’t true. He said the statement to the city, which was passed by consensus, was proof.
In it, protesters said they would cease further negotiations with officials until 10 grievances were addressed.
Some demands on the group's list are specific, like a call for a moratorium on all foreclosures in Los Angeles, as well as a call for the city to divest from all major banks. Others, such as a call for “money to be removed from politics,” are less so.
The protesters also ask that police be banned from using rubber bullets, pepper spray, tear gas and other riot-suppression tactics on those exercising 1st Amendment rights. Police used some of those tactics while breaking up similar protests in Oakland and on University of California campuses in Berkeley and Davis.
The protesters also want the south side of City Hall, where their nightly general assembly meetings are held, to be open 24 hour a day. And they offered a new name for the 1.7 acres of lawn around the building -- “Solidarity Park.”
-- Kate Linthicum at Los Angeles City Hall
Photo: Campers in front of a graffiti-filled wall at the Occupy L.A. site in front of City Hall in downtown Los Angeles. Credit: Frederic J. Brown / AFP / Getty Images