[caption id="attachment_855" align="aligncenter" width="579" caption="Luis Rodriguez (right) pictured at the Occupy L.A. encampment some hours before it is raided by the LAPD. Standing next to Luis is friend, Frank Curtis."][/caption] Last night my daughter Andrea and I – along with her boyfriend Sean – stood among the Occupy L.A. protestors on the south steps of City Hall. We were taking part in the General Assembly that was preparing for a police raid later that evening. It was dark already. The raid was expected around 10 pm. I had heard that police had amassed at Dodger Stadium. Helicopters hovered above our heads. My long-time friend Frank Curtis had just bought gallons of water for the protestors—water and food were scarce by then. At one time since October 1, during its height, I heard from 700 to 1,000 tents were set up around City Hall, making L.A. the largest Occupy Movement encampment in the country. By last night there were only a couple hundred tents. A few people were encamped on top of trees. Around 500 people were at the General Assembly or hanging around. At least three times when I was there someone tried to get violent. People surrounded any disrupters, embracing them at times, and gently but swiftly removing them from the area. No persons were hurt. As this would happen, people chanted: “We Are A Peaceful Movement.” Occupy L.A. was only a few blocks from the world’s largest jail—the Twin Towers County Jail. It was only a few blocks from the largest homeless enclave in the country. I’ve been in that jail and I’ve been among these homeless. For me the worldwide Occupy Movement was one of the most meaningful shining lights of defiance against a society that would create jails and homeless in the midst of the greatest rise in wealth in history. As the Occupy people made clear from the beginning—the widening gulf between the one percent of the richest people and the rest of us, the 99 percent, is criminal and obscene. Andrea, Sean, and I left just before the police closed off streets, encircled the City Hall Park, and began to remove people. Andrea had to get back to her daughter. I would have stayed—I’ve been in hundreds of protests and demonstrations over the years, Maced and pepper-sprayed, even jailed for my actions. But tonight I was going to have to get my daughter, Sean, and myself home (Sean, a decent, hardworking recovering alcoholic and ex-convict, can’t get arrested). [caption id="attachment_859" align="alignright" width="432" caption="LAPD officers surrounding the Occupy L.A. encampment, Nov. 30, 2011. Photo Reuters/McNew"][/caption] That night I watched some of the raid on TV. In the end the police had 1,400 officers, many in riot gear and with weapons. Some 200 people were arrested when everybody was moved out by 5:30 a.m. Many protestors ended up at La Placita Church in front of Olvera Street—the church opened its doors to the Occupy L.A. people. To the credit of the protestors, peace was maintained. The police were prepared for the worse, but in the end they did not utilize terrible violence to remove people. The movement continues. It must now take new shapes, new outlets, new kinds of protests. As my good friend the poet Jenuine says, it must also be fluid. It’s clear we cannot live under this system of deep inequality and scarcity any longer. The economic inequities are forcing millions of Americans to come together, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or even political party. If you’re among the poorest of the 99 percent, these things don’t matter as much. What ties us together is the dream of saving our homes, our jobs, our freedoms, our basic needs and our voice. This must now also involve powerfully new and encompassing vision, organization, strategies, plans, and knowledge. If we don’t learn, we don’t grow. And how we learn must be expanded—there are many ways to get the essential teachings in all these actions so that we get closer and closer to real political, economic, and cultural independence from capitalism, its governance, and all the poverty, pain, and deaths this has caused in the U.S. and around the globe. The big dream of a new world has to remain constant, even as the movement takes on many shapes. The point is we can’t stop until the battle’s won. c/s
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