Friday, November 25, 2011

l.a. november 17th, 2011 through my eyecams

this is a longass post, i got so much data and it took forever to get it all into this thing so i apologize for the long wait and its superwordiness, but heres some stuff on the 2 month anniversary of occupy wallstreet, dubbed the official "day of action.", which happened 8 days ago today.

i wrote this that night:

"i am writing this on the steps of city hall, my bed for the night. when i woke up this morning i thought i was going to school, but before i left i saw a news report on the people that pitched tens in the intersection of figeroa and 4th street, the crowd of protestors and police. i saw a reporter patronizingly interview the denizens hand in hand forming a circle around their vinal domes. i saw many police, and news anchors with giggles on breath of things they couldnt or wouldnt understand. i had to see it for myself, unedited, and so do you. 2 buses and a subway, some three hours and one free bus fare later, i was in north hollywood station. there was no sign of anything, so i headed towards fig and 4th, but there was nothing. i started wandering and figured id know when i was there. i checks the feedsites, 23 people had been arrested not soon after id left home. it soon became apparent by looking at the sky that i was close. choppers.

5 floating choppers

it was surreal to suddenly see so many, and most of them immobile, just looming in the air, motionless at every main street in the area. there were easily 6 or 7 of them, just eerily floating with their dull buzzes in the distance. i began to walk towards one. 20 minutes and a cigarette with a syrian guy named aamir on a layover on his way to ireland from who knows where that had the same blue pouch of buglers rolling tobacco as me and needed a paper later i was met by a chunky tail of people marching along the sidewalks and streets, plugging up intersections with their flow of people, signwielders and screamers, eyecams and drummers and a saxophone playing man. i followed briefly on the opposite side of the street for a block or two listening to their words, humming their bassline and crossed over into a welcoming serpent of energy. cars honk their horns as they push through the street, yells and cheers coming within. people watch from high windows, police followed. i made my way to the head of the serpent, where was it headed? it tunneled through the meat and metal traffic of the financial district and reached its apparent destination. a bank of america. maybe THE bank of america.

the serpent was long

the serpent stretches and coils around it, floods through its rent a cops and private security and the small showing of the lapd, around 20 or 25. we were many more and they barely were seen as establishing a presence. from what i gather from my surroundings, having dove into the thing mid-slither, is that a permit was held to hold a peaceful march for the day, but the arrival of several hundred people and the erection of a small group of 10 or 12 tents on their front lawn was a surprise and not part of the deal. over the next few hours, more and more people filled up the bofa plaza and surrounding streets, and so to did the police arrive. more and more of them, then all of them as i understand it, later reenforced with neighboring precincts. the choppers began to focus on the area. the police sport light riot attire, clubs and faceshielded helmets, guns and radios, bean shotguns and tear cannons; and form a line in front of the building, thats when the tents went up. once they did, the entire plaza, then all adjacent streets and intersections and parking garages were surrounded and blocked. i counted early on and there were around 60 of them in front of the building and and a section of the tent perimeter. there were cop cars in the middle of the streets, side by side two by two, spanning back two full blocks, ive never seen so many. in retrospect it was the perfect time to rob a bank somewhere else, but i digress. id never seen such a huge police presence with my own eyes, and for a little old peaceful protest and a bank. estimates at its peak saw 350 to 400 cops in riot gear, wearing guns and brandishing batons. the media then came, like a plague. all the tv outlets, loads of blogs, time magazine, the l.a. times, and tons of freelance reporters and photographers. i havent yet seen how the news is spinning it, but it was beautiful. anyway the police lines thinckened and tightened, surrounding wide perimeter of the tents, took them down, arrested 43 of its denizens and very slowly, over the course of several hours of pointed words and careful babysteps into the setting sun and beyond, the crowd took back to the streets in many subsnaked directions.

3:11 for the bulk of the cities police

theres a funny thing about laws. they are words, and words are interpretive. it was indeed private property, but with a cityordered clause of general public access 24 hours a day. eventually the commander(i dont believe the chief was present) claimed that the corporation of bank of america had issued essentially a court-ordered citizens arrest of trespassers on the property and had to do it because it was the law. it was a heated, messy talk between many people, message carriers weaving through the crowd to their respective groups. police higher ups, lawyers, the mayors people, march organizers and everyone in the nexus' vicinity had a take on what the flimsy law and actions held up. during those hours i held the front lines with my fellow citizens, face to face with helmetshield covered faces. face to face with fellow citizens. i talked to many of them, who wouldnt share an opinion on the situation, i mustve asked 30 of them.

opinions and badges, a venn diagram consisting of two nontouching circles.

with a badge comes an inability to voice an opinion. when they were on duty, they were to do as they were told, and you could tell that that bothered some of them. they tightened their squeeze on the minicamps perimeter and i began to roll video and get all of their faces, badge numbers and names, just in case. 20 or so minutes later, their grip loosened and fell back to their main perimeter around the plaza. anyway that was midday an hour or so after the tents went up. back to the face to face line. the majority of the officers were relatively respectful and delicate about the whole situation, some wanted to bust heads, you could tell. most didnt, most just wanted to go home. just like us. i talked to the officer i was face to face with in the line a fair bit, his name was wells. he seemed like a stand up guy, unable to openly speak about the present goings on, but visibly struck by it. there was a cop behind their line walking along their spines and whispering to them. "keep your batons raised." "take an inch." i asked wells why the guy didnt pick up a baton himself and join the line, and wells just gave me one of those "yep, this is fucked." faces. this man did not want to be there and he knew what this group stood for was right, but he had a family to feed, i asked. he understood, a lot of them did, and thats really what this movement is about, opening a dialogue within the country, to really get a conversation going between the people, all of them who are being affected by the worlds spinning out of control. looking at a police line, looking at a protest line, they were like looking at a mirror for both sides. both sides had good men and women. and bad men and women. scumbags looking for trouble and disheartened people trying to fix something broken and every shade in between. the media will spin it however they feel will best suit their needs since the majority of them are the very things being protested against. but they arent on the front line, they arent there, not really. today ended without tear gas or vicious beatings, or pepper spray or molotov cocktails or rubber bulletstorms. today ended with both sides foced to look one another in the eyes, size each other up, knowing that its not over by a longshot and theyre on the same side, in the same group, wearing different clothing, and that the way things are being run are both irresponsible, unsustainable, and generally fucking everyone. its a matter of pack size and the law still has the biggest pack on the streets, but that could easily change. a times on its way when those on the same side will have to make the conscious decision to work together or come to blows, to the dismay or joy of the people peering over the edge of the top of the world.

so here i am, here at city hall, here at this makeshift tent city, like an amalgamation of a camping trip and the lost boys neighborhood, mashed together with the white pillars of government buildings and trees, here with all of these people. i sat in at a meting of the nightly general assembly to hear many voices of the movement. everyone is given time and voices and ears, and all together. these people arent disorganized and stupid like their oppressors would have you believe, there are just so many ideas, with so many perspectives, with so little resourses, its bound to get messy, thats just how it is. but make no mistake, these are people with plans, and every direction is forward."

-its cheesy, but i was hopped up on pride and adrenaline. it was a good night.

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