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Occupy L.A.: Protester is the face of Time's 'Person of the Year'

December 14, 2011 |  7:13 pm

Time magazine's cover of the 2011 Person of the Year.A steely eyed woman with a bandanna wrapped around her face stares out from the cover of Time magazine.

The magazine chose "The Protester" as its annual person of the year -- a nod to political revolutionaries in Egypt, in Greece and on Wall Street -- and the image is meant to evoke the throngs who took to the streets worldwide to call for change.

But the origins of the image lie much closer to home. The woman pictured is Sarah Mason, a Highland Park resident and an active member of Occupy L.A.

Street artist Shepard Fairey designed the cover. Fairey, who created the Barack Obama "Hope" posters before the 2008 presidential election, based his image on a photograph taken by Los Angeles photographer Ted Soqui, who says he took Mason's picture during a Nov. 17 financial district protest outside of the Bank of America tower.

Mason was arrested with dozens of others during that action. Less than two weeks later, she was there as Los Angeles police moved in to clear the Occupy camp outside City Hall.

Mason had left the park, she told a Times reporter at the time, because she couldn't risk another arrest. She appeared distraught at having walked away from her fellow protesters, and angry that city officials had decided to close the park. "There's no curfew on the 1st Amendment," she said.

Protester Scott Shuster, a friend of Mason, said she was surprised and a little embarrassed to see her picture on the cover of Time.

But he said she had earned the honor for her work at Occupy, where she is known as a consensus builder who once taught police how to participate in the protest's nightly general assembly meeting. Shuster said Occupy had helped Mason grow politically and personally.

"She found her voice," he said, and then paused. "I'm probably not the best person to ask, though. I've had a crush on her since the moment I met her."

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-- Kate Linthicum

twitter.com/katelinthicum

Photo: Time magazine's cover of the 2011 Person of the Year.

Credit: Time

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