occupy LA

This is America

This is America people. Earn your keep. Use your God given, hands, legs, head, brain, and heart and fight for what you want. Don’t expect the government to support you, or to take care of you. Yes, they will to an extent, but those dreams you have, those aspirations you wish to achieve: YOU have to make them happen. The reality is the value of the dollar is universal to all Americans, Democrats, Republicans and everyone in between, and it effects the choices being made. When the government makes a decision, it has the country’s and their own best interest in mind. They are not thinking about you as an individual. Stop complaining about what’s not being done for you, and start doing something for yourself. Stop waiting to be spoon fed like a child. Stop sucking on the government tit. You are an adult. You are a more than capable individual. So whether you are the 99% or the 1%, earn and fight for what you want, and never expect anyone to give it to you.

-The Average American Citizen

Occupy Wall Street and Labor: The Closest of Strangers
Michael Hirsch  February 10, 2012

     A sign on a lower Broadway storefront window just one block south of Wall Street reads “I can’t afford a lobbyist, so I organize.” The sign, one of many put up by Occupy Wall Street activists, sits inside a cavernous street floor space the United Federation of Teachers lent gratis to OWS for storage and coordination. The UFT, like other city unions, can afford lobbyists—subsidized by its own members through voluntary contributions. Like other city unions it operates an extensive volunteer political action arm, and massaging or muscling elected officials is seen as key to improving members’ wages and working conditions. And, like other unions in a state boasting the nation’s highest concentration of union households and home to the largest number of Fortune 500 mega-corporations and public-sector-union-averse think tankers, it also organizes aggressively.

     Organizing and lobbying are tactics used by the Transport Workers, Service Employees, Communications Workers, AFSCME and Unite-Here, too—key supporters of the Occupy movement nationwide. Yet the slogan hints at outstanding contradictions between two movements that view the world—at least right now—quite differently, even as its activists are building warm relationships with each other.

     What labor and Occupy share is a common enemy in corporate America. What else shared is not so clear. Much of the discussion at a recent forum on “Can the Labor Movement and Occupy Wall Street March down the Same Road,” sponsored on Jan. 27 by The Murphy Institute, a graduate labor program at City University of New York, was about fostering dialogue and the need to see things from others’ perspectives. Certainly the plague of joblessness, growing economic inequality, environmental genocide, needless military adventures and federal and state policies that reward the financial industry even after it sunk the economy are all powerful incentives for cooperation. But substantively, in my view, very little was exchanged.

     Occupy Wall Street is a movement that eschews political demands. Its blogs are rife with comments that demands in themselves validate government and reinforce the social order. That sentiment, wrong on its face, embodied at least a smart tactical move, initially. It maximized participation, mainstreamed a radical slam at the rich and powerful and restated Jack London’s classic charge against business: “you have mismanaged.” In one moment, Occupy switched media attention from the growing federal deficit to the venality and homicide of corporate society. Occupy has returned a sense of “them and us” to the American psyche. It is, as panel moderator and author Steve Fraser said, a movement that is inherently “anticapitalist,” and “using liberated language.” It’s allowed,“ said panelist John Samuelson, president of the city’s subway workers and bus drivers union, "labor contracts to be concluded because the other side doesn’t want job actions” in the era of Occupy.

     In the same vein, Mario Dartayet-Rodriguez, organizing director for AFSCME’s District Council 37 , sketched the two movements’ similarities, saying that “Despite differences over politics and the ballot box, no one else has the same view of the concentration of power,” adding that “As long as wage disparities and joblessness exist, there’s plenty of room for collaboration.”

     Tammy Kim, staff attorney at the Urban Justice Center and an active member of the Occupy Wall Street Immigrant Worker Justice Working Group, gave examples of wage theft committed against immigrant workers. She reminded listeners—if indeed we needed reminding—that organized labor (or as she unfortunately put it, “Big Labor”) is just one part of the working class.

     Amy Muldoon, a Verizon repair technician serving as liaison between her Communications Workers district and Occupy, and whose union donated mattresses, walkie-talkies and other supplies to the occupiers, said Occupy’s attraction came from “class anger at 30 or 40 years of attacks,” and how the occupation was “incredible and intoxicating for those of us who slog in the unions.” She said the rage contained in OWS was effecting “a groundswell for change in unions and against organizational inertia.” She even quoted German revolutionary Rosa Luxemburg, about movements advancing and retreating “but always leaving a footprint.”

     I’ll even add that culturally Occupy legitimates giving the risible finger to the invisible hand, something that is not just the bravado of a subculture but a rational and helpful political act in itself

     Is any of this enough? Is any of it, well, bankable?

     Samuelson, whose union was the first of many in New York to embrace the occupation, said the number one question for the day was “What can each movement learn from each other?” Fraser, whose book “Every Man a Speculator,” is a withering critique of Wall Street, said that while collaboration between the two movements was crucial, activists had to be aware that the movements diverged in terms of structure, demands, political perspectives, as well as over tactics and strategies.

     "These differences need to be worked on, and that’s what we’re doing today,“ said Fraser said.

     A worthy goal, but it didn’t happen. To me, the meeting was more an exercise in mutual validation and less an actual exchange of ideas and experiences. There was a lot of talk of "dialogue,” but it was more monologues on parallel tracks.

     All speakers praised Occupy’s focus on horizontal organization as a replacement for what they saw as a prevailing bureaucratic mentality, but there was little recognition that labor’s problem is structural and not (or not primarily) cultural. A fixation with horizontal organization as a cure-all doesn’t take into account the legal and contractual strangleholds holding unions back, leaving it, instead, at attitude problems. Sure, the laws, the timed contract system, even the lack of a political party that speaks unambiguously for working people, aren’t permanent roadblocks, though Samuelson admitted that getting unions to change direction “was like turning the Titanic.” Certainly the top-down union structure allows leaders too much sway to cut side deals and too little incentive to empower members. But is lack of imagination really labor’s Achilles’ heel? Is changing the “culture” of the unions just a matter of style or substance?

     And where was the recognition of Occupy’s own dirty little secrets: that the General Assemblies enable one individual to stymie the will of thousands; where endless debates restrict decision making to those with the time and energy to occupy 24/7—giving the edge to those without jobs or families—and where, as in one New York case, a workgroup focusing on demands was effectively neutered not on the merits but after daring to change its own internal workings to require a 75 percent supermajority on decisions when consensus failed. Then there’s the predilection for confrontation. Civil disobedience is a powerful weapon, but too many encounters with the police—at least the ones not provoked by the police high command—were done with little preparation or even sufficient legal observers present. Ouch!

     OWS activists consider nonhierarchical structures and open sourcing to be the indispensable condition for good social organization if not prefigurations of the good society. With all its talk of consensus, OWS boils things down to a minimum. At its worst moments, it’s a talk shop with meditation. Labor, for its part, is hierarchically structured; its message is crafted (hopefully with input from the bottom up) but its democracy is centralized. It’s the leadership that speaks. Unions—the good ones at least—see democracy as the basis for mobilizing members for a goal and training activists. Then they prize representative democracy as a good in itself, a tricky proposition no less problematic than is the participatory alternative. There’s also a tendency for even the most social-justice-conscious trade unionists to give breathtaking critiques of corporate greed, yet their solution is a one-shoe-fits-all electoral involvement. Political action is at best one part of a solution.

     And of course union leaders are not blameless. If they were, we wouldn’t need a blog called Talking Union. DC 37, for one, was generous with its meeting space, allowing two separate labor-oriented workgroups to hold weekly meetings, which are still going on. But that didn’t stop AFSCME’s International Executive Board from endorsing President Obama for re-election with hyper-exuberant language, stretching credulity to claim this much failed president deserved re-election on the merits, rather than because the GOP is so god awful and dangerous. The February issue of Public Employee Press cites AFSCME’s President Gerald McEntee as saying in pure Occupy speak, how “Obama is the only choice for the 99 percent.” It quotes Lillian Roberts, the DC 37 executive director on a counterfactual, that “Obama is a proven fighter whose stand on economic, political and social issues demonstrates strong support for protecting the rights of working men and women.” Gee, Lillian, wasn’t McEntee’s saying “we’ve got no choice” sad enough?

     Of course, there are good things both movements can learn from each other, and dialogue should facilitate that learning, but it won’t come without engaging each other, too. Right now, solidarity between the two movements is as broad as a football field and shallow as the turf. It can’t be allowed to stay that way.

     The possibilities of real dialogue are exciting. The OWS may be inherently anticapitalist, but it’s worker-lite. The Labor Movement breathes the language of class, but is only anticapitalist in the final instance. Until then, it’s all negotiable. For now, unions straddle the fence between defending labor power and selling it. OWS could give up its biblical prophet pose and talk about real solutions, while unionists could explain their legal and contractual binds and the real inhibitions on making every member an activist, including how plenty of workers vote Republican, as every political director knows. (Keeping that number below 30 percent is considered a victory). That’s an exercise that could give fresh thought to ways of breaking those binds. That’s a discussion that should happen soon.

     Instead, OWS activists segregate themselves into work groups with little in common with the larger OWS. The two labor workgroups comprise union activists, officers and staff. It presents some interesting possibilities for joint work between elected leaders and shop-floor militants, but these can’t affect the overall OWS sensibility. An exciting labor solidarity project to help locked-out union art handlers at the tony Sotheby’s Auction Gallery got a lot of media play, but was done largely by unionists affiliated with OWS. For too many of the rest in OWS, it was the spectacle at Zuccotti Park that counted. That and the drumming.

Michael Hirsch is a veteran union activist and a member of the New Politics editorial board.

Many Occupy L.A. protesters arrested during demonstrations in recent months are being offered a unique chance to avoid court trials: pay $355 to a private company for a lesson in free speech.

Los Angeles Chief Deputy City Atty. William Carter said the city won’t press charges against protesters who complete the educational program offered by American Justice Associates. 

The 1st Amendment is not absolute,” he said, noting that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled government can regulate when, where and how free speech can be exercised.

But a civil rights attorney who has worked closely with the protesters called the class “patronizing,” and said the demonstrators who were arrested are the last people needing free-speech training.

There they were exercising their 1st Amendment, their lawful right to protest nonviolently,” said attorney Cynthia Anderson-Barker.

There have been more than 350 arrests at Occupy demonstrations in Los Angeles since protesters first set up camp outside City Hall in October.

The tuition will go to the company, not the city, officials say.


My name is Patrick Meighan, and I’m a husband, a father, a writer on the Fox animated sitcom “Family Guy”, and a member of the Unitarian Universalist Community Church of Santa Monica.

I was arrested at about 1 a.m. Wednesday morning with 291 other people at Occupy LA. I was sitting in City Hall Park with a pillow, a blanket, and a copy of Thich Nhat Hanh’s “Being Peace” when 1,400 heavily-armed LAPD officers in paramilitary SWAT gear streamed in. I was in a group of about 50 peaceful protestors who sat Indian-style, arms interlocked, around a tent (the symbolic image of the Occupy movement). The LAPD officers encircled us, weapons drawn, while we chanted “We Are Peaceful” and “We Are Nonviolent” and “Join Us.”

As we sat there, encircled, a separate team of LAPD officers used knives to slice open every personal tent in the park. They forcibly removed anyone sleeping inside, and then yanked out and destroyed any personal property inside those tents, scattering the contents across the park. They then did the same with the communal property of the Occupy LA movement. For example, I watched as the LAPD destroyed a pop-up canopy tent that, until that moment, had been serving as Occupy LA’s First Aid and Wellness tent, in which volunteer health professionals gave free medical care to absolutely anyone who requested it. As it happens, my family had personally contributed that exact canopy tent to Occupy LA, at a cost of several hundred of my family’s dollars. As I watched, the LAPD sliced that canopy tent to shreds, broke the telescoping poles into pieces and scattered the detritus across the park. Note that these were the objects described in subsequent mainstream press reports as “30 tons of garbage” that was “abandoned” by Occupy LA: personal property forcibly stolen from us, destroyed in front of our eyes and then left for maintenance workers to dispose of while we were sent to prison.

When the LAPD finally began arresting those of us interlocked around the symbolic tent, we were all ordered by the LAPD to unlink from each other (in order to facilitate the arrests). Each seated, nonviolent protester beside me who refused to cooperate by unlinking his arms had the following done to him: an LAPD officer would forcibly extend the protestor’s legs, grab his left foot, twist it all the way around and then stomp his boot on the insole, pinning the protestor’s left foot to the pavement, twisted backwards. Then the LAPD officer would grab the protestor’s right foot and twist it all the way the other direction until the non-violent protestor, in incredible agony, would shriek in pain and unlink from his neighbor.

It was horrible to watch, and apparently designed to terrorize the rest of us. At least I was sufficiently terrorized. I unlinked my arms voluntarily and informed the LAPD officers that I would go peacefully and cooperatively. I stood as instructed, and then I had my arms wrenched behind my back, and an officer hyperextended my wrists into my inner arms. It was super violent, it hurt really really bad, and he was doing it on purpose. When I involuntarily recoiled from the pain, the LAPD officer threw me face-first to the pavement. He had my hands behind my back, so I landed right on my face. The officer dropped with his knee on my back and ground my face into the pavement. It really, really hurt and my face started bleeding and I was very scared. I begged for mercy and I promised that I was honestly not resisting and would not resist.

My hands were then zipcuffed very tightly behind my back, where they turned blue. I am now suffering nerve damage in my right thumb and palm.

I was put on a paddywagon with other nonviolent protestors and taken to a parking garage in Parker Center. They forced us to kneel on the hard pavement of that parking garage for seven straight hours with our hands still tightly zipcuffed behind our backs. Some began to pass out. One man rolled to the ground and vomited for a long, long time before falling unconscious. The LAPD officers watched and did nothing.

At 9 a.m. we were finally taken from the pavement into the station to be processed. The charge was sitting in the park after the police said not to. It’s a misdemeanor. Almost always, for a misdemeanor, the police just give you a ticket and let you go. It costs you a couple hundred dollars. Apparently, that’s what happened with most every other misdemeanor arrest in LA that day.

With us Occupy LA protestors, however, they set bail at $5,000 and booked us into jail. Almost none of the protesters could afford to bail themselves out. I’m lucky and I could afford it, except the LAPD spent all day refusing to actually *accept* the bail they set. If you were an accused murderer or a rapist in LAPD custody that day, you could bail yourself right out and be back on the street, no problem. But if you were a nonviolent Occupy LA protestor with bail money in hand, you were held long into the following morning, with absolutely no access to a lawyer.

I spent most of my day and night crammed into an eight-man jail cell, along with sixteen other Occupy LA protesters. My sleeping spot was on the floor next to the toilet.

Finally, at 2:30 the next morning, after twenty-five hours in custody, I was released on bail. But there were at least 200 Occupy LA protestors who couldn’t afford the bail. The LAPD chose to keep those peaceful, non-violent protesters in prison for two full days… the absolute legal maximum that the LAPD is allowed to detain someone on misdemeanor charges.

As a reminder, Antonio Villaraigosa has referred to all of this as “the LAPD’s finest hour.”

So that’s what happened to the 292 women and men were arrested last Wednesday. Now let’s talk about a man who was not arrested last Wednesday. He is former Citigroup CEO Charles Prince. Under Charles Prince, Citigroup was guilty of massive, coordinated securities fraud.

Citigroup spent years intentionally buying up every bad mortgage loan it could find, creating bad securities out of those bad loans and then selling shares in those bad securities to duped investors. And then they sometimes secretly bet *against* their *own* bad securities to make even more money. For one such bad Citigroup security, Citigroup executives were internally calling it, quote, “a collection of dogshit”. To investors, however, they called it, quote, “an attractive investment rigorously selected by an independent investment adviser”.

This is fraud, and it’s a felony, and the Charles Princes of the world spent several years doing it again and again: knowingly writing bad mortgages, and then packaging them into fraudulent securities which they then sold to suckers and then repeating the process. This is a big part of why your property values went up so fast. But then the bubble burst, and that’s why our economy is now shattered for a generation, and it’s also why your home is now underwater. Or at least mine is.

Anyway, if your retirement fund lost a decade’s-worth of gains overnight, this is why.

If your son’s middle school has added furlough days because the school district can’t afford to keep its doors open for a full school year, this is why.

If your daughter has come out of college with a degree only to discover that there are no jobs for her, this is why.

But back to Charles Prince. For his four years of in charge of massive, repeated fraud at Citigroup, he received fifty-three million dollars in salary and also received another ninety-four million dollars in stock holdings. What Charles Prince has *not* received is a pair of zipcuffs. The nerves in his thumb are fine. No cop has thrown Charles Prince into the pavement, face-first. Each and every peaceful, nonviolent Occupy LA protester arrested last week has has spent more time sleeping on a jail floor than every single Charles Prince on Wall Street, combined.

The more I think about that, the madder I get. What does it say about our country that nonviolent protesters are given the bottom of a police boot while those who steal hundreds of billions, do trillions worth of damage to our economy and shatter our social fabric for a generation are not only spared the zipcuffs but showered with rewards?

In any event, believe it or not, I’m really not angry that I got arrested. I chose to get arrested. And I’m not even angry that the mayor and the LAPD decided to give non-violent protestors like me a little extra shiv in jail (although I’m not especially grateful for it either).

I’m just really angry that every single Charles Prince wasn’t in jail with me.

Thank you for letting me share that anger with you today.

—  Patrick Meighan

Trigger Warning: Police Brutality

Sergio Ballesteros of Occupy LA is being charged with lynching and is being held on $50,000 bail bond as of this writing.

The California Penal Code defines lynching as:
405a.  The taking by means of a riot of any person from the lawful custody of any peace officer is a lynching.

WHAT IS THE PUNISHMENT FOR LYNCHING? 405b.  Every person who participates in any lynching is punishable by imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170 for two, Three or four years.
WHAT IS A RIOT?404.  (a) Any use of force or violence, disturbing the public peace, or any threat to use force or violence, if accompanied by immediate power of execution, by two or more persons acting together, and without authority of law, is a riot.
HOW DOES THIS APPLY TO WHAT HAPPENED? It doesn’t, the charges are bogus but don’t take my word. Watch the video and come to your own conclusion.