An update on Monday’s attempted eviction of Occupy LA

by Tony Bartolone, Staff Writer

pLAywriting in the city

It’s 3:52 a.m. I am sitting on the corner of 1st and Main staring at the CBS News van. The single light shooting from across the street makes it seem like a sunny afternoon, but the cold air and the fog slowly gathering tell a different story. Police helicopters and random political dialogues have become noise akin to a TV in the background while a man sleeps on his Lazy Boy. On Friday Mayor Villaraigosa ordered all the protesters currently camped out on the lawn to occupy elsewhere by one minute past midnight, which was nearly four hours ago. At this point, not a single protestor has left the occupation, and not a single arrest has been made.

The stand off has been quiet all night moving into morning. The police lined up blocking the streets, clubs in hand, helmets on head. Earlier the mood was tight, tense, and fear coalesced in the air. The anticipation was piling up, stacked in teetering towers waiting for the slightest breeze to send everybody’s desire for a better world tumbling down on us like flurry of billy clubs to the head. Now the medics are wandering around, aimlessly in boredom. Some people are singing “Give Peace a Chance” in the street. As soon as I walk over to them, screaming is heard, “They’re coming, they’re coming! The police are coming!”

The general public reaction to the protest is one of misunderstanding and confusion. Why are there so many camped out in front of City Hall? The reason is simple to relate to yet difficult to explain. Basically, these people feel as if they have lost their voice, and they’re screaming to make sure they still have one. This mass of humanity is underrepresented and tired of the corruption and lies happening in their country. Specifically, they are fighting bloated corporations that have too much power in government. These are some of the best-educated minds in Los Angeles. This large group is one of patriotic expression, one of subtle desperation, one of subdued anger. This assembly, above all, is one of peace.

Photo by Ernesto Arce

The LAPD has been extraneously cautious in their approach. People came expecting a riot, and thus far not so much as an unkind word has been spoken. There was electricity erupting from the streets. At times it felt like New Years Eve in Time Square, a celebration of a new day. The countdown to midnight happened, but the ball has yet to drop, Evel Knievel has yet to jump his motorcycle over fifty flaming cars, and old acquaintance have yet to be forgot.

It would be a safe bet to wager that every nine in ten people have some kind of photographic devise out and ready to shoot a scene of police brutality. I was nearly convinced that the Internet was making people stupid. The oversaturation of modern media was destroying our youth and our language. However, the power of the worldwide web as a potent tool for civil disobedience has now been demonstrated. If not for iPhones and youtube, the world would have never known of the innocent, peaceful protesters who were beaten or pepper sprayed for practicing their first amendment right as Americans.

As the movement moves on, there has been support shown from a variety of different channels. The most impressive means of support is that of Anonymous. Original appearing online in 2003 as “4chan”, and known also known as the 4chan Mafia, Anonymous is a group of computer hackers who dispense vigilante justice using what has come to be called hacktivism. The social defenders creatively use the weapons at their disposal to tip the scales toward the side of the people. In the recent past, they have targeted Sarah Palin, Scientology and the Egyptian Government. A now infamous viral video of UC Davis’ Lieutenant John Pike pepper spraying peaceful protestors was released on youtube. Shortly after, Anonymous released Lt. Pike’s home phone number, cell phone number and e-mail and encouraged people to contact him personally to express their anger.

It is this kind of contemporary counter-attack that has Mayor Villaraigosa and his LAPD afraid to advance. Further more, the protestors invited everybody in the LA area to come flood the streets as a strategic move that actually worked. People ran through the camp screaming, “Wake up, wake up! This is it! They’re coming, the police are coming.” A girl I knew, but had not yet seen, ran up to me in a panic. “If you’re not ready to get arrested, you better leave now.” She panted. “And if you have anything you don’t want taken away, like a sim card, I suggest you duct tape to your body.” And with that, she ran off. Ready to be arrested? How does one prepare for arrest? Well, apparently by duct taping your sim card to your skin.

I walked up the steps to the main entrance of city hall trying to get a good view of the action in the streets. A man was yelling, “If it weren’t for those people on the street, it would be us getting moved!” Four officers in full riot gear were standing right behind me. The horror was mounting, but nobody was moving. Then the voice of the LAPD boomed from a PA system. “You must move out of the intersections and on to the sidewalk. This includes the media. It is not our intention to remove people from the park at this time. If you do not move, we will be forced to make arrests and use other means of force to get you to clear the intersections. Other means of force meaning weapons. You have five minutes to move.” They added on a two-minute warning, and the crowd moved onto the sidewalk. There was definitely fear among the protest, no question about that. But that fear was conquered by solidarity.

Walking away from City Hall, standing on a corner, there was a cop with his helmet in his hand waiting to cross Temple Street. The opportunity could not be missed. “Can I ask you a question?” His attention turned toward me as he nodded slightly. “How do you feel about the protest?” He looked at me like a man looks at a bear trap. “I don’t discuss politics.” He politely stated. It was tempting to push the issue, but there was really nothing else to say. There was conflict in his eyes and animosity on his breath. And that’s when it really hit; we’re all just people doing the best we can. As the liquid orange pushed the night out of the sky, the light turned. I wished him a good day, he wished me the same, and we walked our separate ways.

Tony Bartolone is a community college drop out. He honed his craft at Cerritos College where he did nearly twenty plays, won several theatre and writing awards and made some best friends with whom he started two theatre companies.  You can not see him in the season finale of It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia because his scene was cut. And his TV pilot has been thrown in the trash by some of todays most influential television producers. “At the end of the day, nobody is any better than a punk rock love song.” Tony also writes for The Huffington Post and The LA Theatre Review.