Protesters Occupy LA before heading to Pasadena
“I saw a great sign the other day,” said Occupy Pasadena protester Maddie Gavel-Briggs, a freelance marketing writer, who with her husband, Patrick, a business analyst, has become increasingly active in political causes over the past decade.
“It read, ‘You know we’re in trouble when a librarian is marching,’” Gavel-Briggs said, adding the sign was being carried by a 50-year-old librarian. “Until 2000, I took the entire system for granted, and after 2000, I woke up and knew this was stolen. I always thought the powers that be would do all the work, but democracy only works when you participate. I get crazy when people say ‘the government stinks.’ We are the government.”
Gavel-Biggs speaks for thousands around the country, who have been participating in Occupy movements in New York, Washington, DC, Los Angeles and 1,400 other cities around the country.
The Occupy Pasadena movement started Oct. 12 in one of the city’s wealthier sections — Lake Avenue and Colorado Boulevard, home to a number of banks and savings institutions. From 3 to 6 p.m., about 200 demonstrators staged protests outside of the Chase and Bank of America branches located at that intersection. The protests themselves were peaceful, but dozens of passing drivers honked their horns in support of the effort.
The next Occupy Pasadena action is set for 3 to 5:30 p.m. Friday at the same intersection of Lake Avenue and Colorado Boulevard. Gavel-Briggs noted that she hopes the movement will continue to grow and serve as a catalyst to “wake people up” in society.
“We’re still hoping to make people aware of moving their money,” said Gavel-Briggs of one goal of the Occupy movement to have people take their money out of banks. “There’s a slight inconvenience with ATMs, but in the scheme of things it doesn’t make sense to pay for the use of your own money and keep propping up the banks with these fees.”
In Los Angeles, “We are the 99 percent” is the oft-repeated rallying cry of the diverse group of demonsrators encamped around LA’s City Hall since Oct. 1 under the name of Occupy Los Angeles. They are there to protest the way the global economy has been wrecked by Wall Street greed with the assistance of a political system they charge with being responsive only to the rich and powerful — the other 1 percent.
Although demonstrators have not yet come together around any agenda of specific reforms, they seem agreed on a general direction — to restore “government of the people, by the people, for the people.”
While the often-tense Occupy Wall Street demonstrations in New York City have been confronted with antagonistic actions by the city — arrests are approaching the 1,000 mark and pepper spray has been used to douse both peaceful demonstrators and members of the media, according to a recent report on “Democracy Now” with Amy Goodman — Occupy LA has followed a mellower, California-style course.
City leaders have begun to signal their sympathies. On Oct. 5, the City Council introduced a resolution of support (the first in the nation to do so), which passed with an 11-0 vote. Since then, police have become a gentle, often accommodating and sometimes even smiling presence. Many of the younger demonstrators are still wary, but others point out that officers are themselves part of the “99 percent.”
The Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO has also pitched in its support, not merely with words but by supplying many of the hundreds of tents that now cover four-fifths of the lawns surrounding City Hall.
After only two weeks, Occupy Los Angeles has gained nearly 12,000 Twitter followers; more than 30,000 people “like” its Facebook page. An equally important measure of its impact: After protesters weighed in on the issue, the LA City Council’s Business and Finance Committee fast-tracked consideration of a long-in-limbo “responsible banking” ordinance introduced by Councilman Richard Alarcon pressing banks that want to handle the city’s multibillion-dollar pension funds to report on what they’re doing for LA and its residents.
Factors that might be weighed include flexibility on foreclosures and local small business loans and reinvestment in the community. Languishing since spring 2010, this ordinance will now be heard in committee in November and acted upon by the council by year’s end.
Like the Occupy Wall Street protesters that inspired them, the LA occupiers are outraged by the economic fallout from 2008’s mortgage meltdown — joblessness, foreclosures, cuts in education and an already threadbare “safety net” for the needy. As a start, they want to see the ”banksters” involved investigated and prosecuted, but there’s also broad agreement that serious systemic change is needed to prevent future financier-created catastrophes and make sure their costs aren’t paid by the poor and middle classes.
They’ve marched from their City Hall base to the downtown financial district to the Bel Air Hotel to support laid-off employees and to other sanctums of the well-to-do, chanting “Whose streets? Our Streets.” The group aims to reclaim America, members say, from captivity by the power of the privileged 1 percent who now hold a record-breaking share of wealth and income.
Ideas on how to repossess the political process — and what to do after that — are as diverse as the collection of grandmothers, students, nurses, jobless college grads, homeless and “homies,” teachers, librarians and even a commodities broker who gather on the City Hall lawns or steps for conversations, committee meetings and a nightly “General Assembly” open to all comers.
There are Ron Paul devotees, who think abolishing the Federal Reserve Bank is the cure-all, a few die-hard revolutionaries, who say workers must seize the means of production, disenchanted Democrats whose “Hope” for “Change” went south and many twentysomethings, whose leanings are skeptical of government, even anarchistic.
That something must be done about the power of banks is agreed upon by almost everyone. But what? Better supervision? Some exemplary prosecutions of malefactors to discourage future frauds? Abolish them altogether? At least a dozen protesters have announced that they’ve closed their accounts at Bank of America, Wells Fargo and others.
Gavel-Briggs said her involvement in the Occupy Pasadena movement is “an outcropping of the actions that my husband and I have been doing the last 10 years in Pasadena. We started with anti-war actions at local intersections, then protested the Bush administration torturing, Abu Ghraib, spying, just the way the administration blatantly abused its power.
“A couple of years ago, we started to become aware of the corporate power that was growing, right after the 2008 tipping point of what people were seeing would happen with deregulation,” Gavel-Briggs continued. “In general, we let up after 2008 election, because we thought we had a great candidate in and things would equalize, but things just started getting worse after that.”