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Trash or treasure? Describing items left behind at Occupy L.A.


Since the Occupy L.A. encampment first formed at City Hall on Oct. 1, readers have given us an inbox full of their opinions on Times coverage.

Views, as expected, were mixed: Several Occupy L.A. detractors said the paper threw in its lot with the protesters, while supporters accused the paper of harboring an anti-Occupy bias (some in the latter group created the Facebook group "Occupy the L.A. Times.")

Karen Pally of Santa Monica took issue with language used in the stories about the eviction of the protesters early Wednesday.

"Several stories refer to the 'debris' and 'garbage' strewn around Occupy L.A.'s campsite at City Hall," Pally said. "This language creates a distorted and negative image.

"Before the police stormed the site, most of the tents were used as spaces for sleep, conversation, work, learning, worship or storage, and the contents were personal possessions, bedding, clothing and supplies."

If one man's trash is another's treasure, then the opposite is probably true too. As Pally said, what city workers dubbed trash included items that were part of daily life at Occupy L.A.

An article in Thursday's Times by David Zahniser and Nicole Santa Cruz described some of the things left on City Hall grounds after protesters were removed: "There were sleeping bags, luggage, cutlery, a small red guitar with a broken neck, and a collection of Ernest Hemingway stories … mattresses and dining chairs, luggage and boom boxes, books and CDs, cellphones and electric razors."

However, there also clearly was garbage. "The city said it collected 30 tons of refuse, from vats of urine to old furniture to discarded food," Assistant City Editor Steve Marble said. "Some of the items that were left behind looked like they were actually personal items that people probably would have taken with them — had there been time. But the city was concerned enough about what was left behind that refuse workers were ordered to wear hazmat suits."

Times photos also showed tents, blue tarps, blankets and pillows. Whether police should have saved those for the city's homeless, as some critics have charged, is a separate debate.

Once the items were left behind for cleanup, they became debris.

"The lawn was certainly a mess after everyone was evicted," Marble said. "Whether it was the occupiers or the police created that mess, I can't really say for certain. But I do think what we saw in the broad daylight — by any logical definition — was a mess."

--Deirdre Edgar

Photo: Tarps and other items left behind at the site of Occupy L.A. Credit: Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times

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Comments (5)

Sometimes trash may be the treasure.

I wonder why the occupy folks didn't just take their stuff with them?

In New York, the Occupy "trash" that police threw out include occupy's library--5,000 books. Did anything like that happen in LA?

Simon: people in LA do NOT read anything, ever. Not books, not magazines, not newspapers. You should take a ride on LA's subway system sometime: people just stare vacantly into the distance while riding the trains, rather than read. Or they may keep their sunglasses on while on the underground train, like that makes them a celebrity or something, instead of the loser they are.

A few years back, I got flooded from my home in Indiana. Stayed with Mom 50 miles away in Indy a few weeks, and looking for a place to live, I saw the house where I grew up. My family moved there in 1957 when I was three and my parents got another home when I was in college years later. There was a sign out front- the door was open so I went in.

What I found were the remains of some family that had left in a hurry- stuff strewn around everywhere. The 3 bedroom brick home we moved into new was in horrible disrepair. I speculated to myself that it looked like how it had been there lately- a people basically on the run from their problems- I was myself then kinda in that situation- moving from one place to another, one job to another in an increasingly mobile society that offers less security. But not so for the bankers and lawyers and professionals dominating things. A fairly modern brick home was going down the tubes twice as fast as it should.

The "mortgage meltdown" began that Fall in earnest- largely a land and real estate grab to yeild a net income on paper with housing and properties that a certain segment snapping things up can't possibly even really manage- especially with costs going up otherwise. The American dream of independent living has been usurped by the corporate political landscape.

Peoples lives have been trashed here, many people's lives. To me Occupy is at least some kind of response to that, without being a lamb going dumb to slaughter. The corporate world should listen a bit, or just choke on its champagne!

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this is a test breaking news post |  April 16, 2013, 1:45 pm »


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