This morning I read a post that said the Occupy movement is dead. It dismissed the movement as a mistake, a misunderstanding, an acid trip. No movement which rejects proper sanitation, it said, should be taken seriously.
The last time I visited Occupy LA, there was a powerful smell of shit. A homeless guy hit me up for a cigarette, another man, a big guy with cropped hair and a smashed in nose told my friend and I that his family wanted him to return home. “Come on back home, Mom,” they had told him, the man claiming to be a mother and in need of forty bucks to get back home. He had gotten in a fight earlier, my friend Marty told me, defending his womanhood.
There are tribes, Marty told me, tents fused under tarps. There are Hollywood runaways, gang members, and homeless men, who help by sweeping up. When I came with a tent and sleeping bag, a woman at the food tent accepted them and gave me a kiss. “Can I give you a kiss?” “Sure,” I said. I turned to leave and she called me back. A woman had just arrived at the Occupation with no place to sleep. “So I’m going to give her your tent,” the girl at the food tent said. She gave it to her and the woman, who was pregnant, asked, “Can I give you a kiss?” “Sure. Why not?”
It made me feel good. I wanted to help. I came down with power bars, I came down with tarps. I marched and filmed the marchers. I filmed Ozomatli, Robert Scheer and Robert Reich. I filmed the Occupiers take the park below the Bank of America and get evicted by the police. I was nearly arrested. The police had warned everyone to clear the courtyard or go to jail and I hadn’t paid attention. Suddenly I was behind a police line. I tried to cross it and a young officer jabbed me with his stick and pushed me back. “If you stay here you’ll be arrested.” “But I’m trying to get out.” “If you stay here you’ll be arrested.” Behind me, in the park, the protestors were standing in front of the tents in a long line. They wanted to get arrested. I didn’t. I wanted to go home. “I have a kid. I’m just a photographer,” I kept saying. I felt like a schmuck, and the cop didn’t care what my sob story was anyway. They must have trained him to look over my head, never into my eyes. They must have trained him to say, “If you stay here you’ll be arrested.” I felt the blood drain from my head: Shit, I’m going to be arrested. Shit. Shit. Shit. Well, I may as well keep shooting and that’s what I did.
Eventually they funneled those of us who weren’t up by the tents out onto Hope. We weren’t being arrested, just controlled. I shot the rest of the operation, the cops rolling the geodesic tents to the edge of the park like an ocean wave rolling driftwood onto a beach.
That was after my son busted his femur running at one of the autism therapies he attends. Two days in the hospital and two titanium nails later we piled back into the car. The next day was N17. “I’m going down to Occupy,” I told my wife. “Is that okay?” “Sure,” she said, trying to be patient. “I won’t be gone long.”
I have been down there five or six times. My friend Marty and his wife Stacie live near the encampment where sometimes we’ve met. They have helped the Occupiers a lot, Stacie through her work as an actress and as a leader of the Interfaith Council, and Marty, a journalist, who has cooked the Occupiers chili and helped them negotiate with the police.
“What’s going to happen?” I keep asking him. “How’s it all going to end?” “I don’t know.” But as most of the Occupiers seem bent on confrontation (many had shouted down their own lawyer after negotiations had broken down) he isn’t optimistic.
Me, I keep seeing that cop, his eyes shaving the top of my head, the girl at the food tent, the man who thinks he’s a mom.
Occupy’s days are numbered. The Mayor says that by Monday, November 28, at 12:01 AM it must go.
I will be there. It is my own private Occupy they’re going to sweep away, and I have to be there when they do.
- Arne Duncan
- Barack Obama
- Bill Gates
- Boom Boxes
- Charter Schools
- Great Depression
- High Stakes Testing
- Michelle Obama
- No Child Left Behind
- Occupy LA
- Occupy Wall Street
- Public Schools
- Social Stories
- Special Education
- Teacher Firings
- The Press
- Virtual Special Ed