I drove myself down to City Hall on Tuesday night to take part in what would probably be the most important political event in our city for a long time. I live tweeted as much as I could – right up until my Android phone ran out of batteries. For those of you who thought I may have been arrested or hurt – do not fret. Yours truly stayed well out of the way of both protesters and the police, I didn’t even yell and scream. I just wanted to be there to show support for all involved, and to witness and document a moment in history.
In case you missed them, here were the tweets I did manage to transmit (skip to the next pic if you’ve already read them):
Driving by @OccupyLA, where is everybody? #prollyintheircars Wed Nov 30 03:20:56 +0000 2011
Wow, this place is pretty busy, but it seems depressed, a little defeated. @occupyla #ows Wed Nov 30 03:44:46 +0000 2011
Kids Village is cleared out. Group is talking about the contingencies if the police move in. @occupyla #OWS Wed Nov 30 03:47:27 +0000 2011
Cameras coming in. So a guy interviewed in Spanish holding a plastic oil bottle and a coiled tube. Wtf??? #OWS @occupyla Wed Nov 30 03:51:36 +0000 2011
Verify? RT @DaHaFa Twitter is time delaying ‘#OccupyLA’ searches. Even realtime searches are being delayed. #ows @occupyla #occupycolumbus Wed Nov 30 03:52:13 +0000 2011
Park’s open to the public until 10:30 so there shouldn’t be any real problems till after that. @occupyla #ows Wed Nov 30 03:58:08 +0000 2011
Helicopter flyover with a bright spot on the GA. Then another one. Why is this so threatening to them? #ows @occupyla Wed Nov 30 04:01:25 +0000 2011
Cop helicopter is circling low, clearly drowning out the deliberative body.Circliing shadows,Blatant suppression of organization. #OWS #ola Wed Nov 30 04:02:51 +0000 2011
The intimidation is working on me, my heart is racing and I’m scanning the perimeter for the squads,Loud rotors,ga is breaking up @occupyla Wed Nov 30 04:04:54 +0000 2011
Sorry, GA moved into discussion groups, helo’s gone for now. @occupyla #ows Wed Nov 30 04:06:33 +0000 2011
There are an unfortunate number of drunken maniacs here. @OccupyLA #ows #sorrybut #itssketchy Wed Nov 30 04:09:58 +0000 2011
Only one Guy Fawkes.Hopefully people know he was a theocrat terrorist. Somewhere, Hugo Weaving is grinning with a moustache. @occupyla #ows Wed Nov 30 04:13:59 +0000 2011
I probably should have told @tweety_byrd that I was coming down here. @occupyla #ows Wed Nov 30 04:15:22 +0000 2011
How did you confirm? RT @OWSLosAngeles confirmation that hash tags are being delayed for 45 minutes – retweets are critical Wed Nov 30 04:19:32 +0000 2011
Got hungry and had to 1% it over to 2nd St for some kimchi fried rice. There are a lot of reasons this is not revolutionary. #ows #OccupyLA Wed Nov 30 04:44:54 +0000 2011
@wilw Luckily they don’t control the hundreds who have smartphones. Thanks Internet! Wed Nov 30 04:46:48 +0000 2011
RT @znmeb: @gofiliberto There’s no delay now – I think it was a temporary glitch Wed Nov 30 04:49:20 +0000 2011
RT @ElOaklandTejano: LAPD now staging in Chavez Ravine to defeat #occupyLA. Chavez Ravine a neighborhood destroyed 4 corp interests. ht … Wed Nov 30 04:56:01 +0000 2011
RT @UncleRUSH: Dear Mayor @Villaraigosa & LAPD — if u are going to raid #OccupyLA camp, pls show restraint. This is peaceful protest. #OWS Wed Nov 30 04:56:33 +0000 2011
@OccupyWallStNYC also @OWSLosAngeles and me! ( @sydiot ) #ows #OccupyLA Wed Nov 30 04:58:58 +0000 2011
@OccupyWallStNYC We call that ‘Dodger Stadium.’ Wed Nov 30 05:00:09 +0000 2011
RT @LAObserved: Very big police gathering at Dodger Stadium, in left field parking lot. Many parked cars outside LAPD academy. Wed Nov 30 05:03:04 +0000 2011
Occupiers setting up barricades made from toppled trashcans. Not sure that’s a good idea… #occupyla #ows Wed Nov 30 05:07:07 +0000 2011
KCAL9′s getting a spiffy close-up from behind the barricades. They’re live now. #ows #OccupyLA Wed Nov 30 05:08:26 +0000 2011
RT @twistedcat: Ch9 aerial footage from Dodger stadium massive amts of cops loading onto metro busses NOW. At least 200 @OccupyLA #ola #ows Wed Nov 30 05:12:10 +0000 2011
RT @CBSLA: BREAKING: LAPD officers are loading into dozens of buses outside Dodgers stadium as Occupy LA protesters prepare for their ar … Wed Nov 30 05:13:01 +0000 2011
It is about to go down, hundreds of cops reported on the way. I’m staying to the side to observe in support. #OWS @occupyla Wed Nov 30 05:14:17 +0000 2011
Every MTA bus that goes by I’m like omgshiiiii @occupyla @#ows Wed Nov 30 05:18:02 +0000 2011 @robgwilson yes indeedy, outside the park at 1st and spring. Wed Nov 30 05:18:41 +0000 2011
Media’s interviewing Beck at Main and 1st. No barricade on this entrance. #OccupyLA #OWS Wed Nov 30 05:23:33 +0000 2011
Chopper hovering now, is that CBS News? Are they close yet? @robgwilson #OccupyLA #OWS Wed Nov 30 05:27:43 +0000 2011
Guy who I saw dancing earlier is now hurling. Can’t say that isn’t a health hazard, yo. #OWS #OccupyLA Wed Nov 30 05:30:17 +0000 2011
There are some seriously tense mentally ill derelicts here. I can see them provoking a punch in the face pretty easily. :/ #OWS #OccupyLA Wed Nov 30 05:32:26 +0000 2011
I kinda wish I had my bike. Wed Nov 30 05:34:13 +0000 2011
there’s a srs bsns group of occupiers in surgeon masks behind the barricade, they’re planning for the worst. #OWS #OccupyLA Wed Nov 30 05:37:49 +0000 2011
LAPD is closing the streets leading to City Hall. #OWS #OccupyLA Wed Nov 30 05:39:15 +0000 2011
Corner of Main and 1st is crowded. Green hats everywhere – they’re Ntl Lawyers Guild legal observers. Yay! #OWS #OccupyLA Wed Nov 30 05:44:57 +0000 2011
This raid sure must be stimulating the helicopter fuel economy. #atleast5 #OWS #OccupyLA Wed Nov 30 05:48:47 +0000 2011 LAPD
is probably waiting for 10:30pm for the park to close, right? #OWS #OccupyLA Wed Nov 30 06:00:29 +0000 2011
The light is back, don’t look up, it blinds. I’m waiting for the acoustic weapons. #OWS #OccupyLA Wed Nov 30 06:03:34 +0000 2011
‘Road Closed’ sign over barricade will be the featured pic for a lot of stories on this raid. #OccupyLA #OWS Wed Nov 30 06:07:34 +0000 2011
Someone set off some low fireworks over the corner. Pretty cool/dangerous! #OWS #OccupyLA Wed Nov 30 06:12:32 +0000 2011
Shit, I’m losing batts Wed Nov 30 06:25:03 +0000 2011
Just realized what that vinegar smell is. #dontgasmebro #OWS #OccupyLA Wed Nov 30 06:26:13 +0000 2011
About to get the dispersal order from LAPD. #OWS #OccupyLA Wed Nov 30 07:08:28 +0000 2011
@UnboundedMama I am here. Wed Nov 30 07:17:22 +0000 2011
RT @OWSLosAngeles: Officers have tear gas confirmed by @OakFoSho http://t.co/Y7jjHtTm Wed Nov 30 07:18:13 +0000 2011
Acoustic weapons are moving into place. #OWS #OccupyLA Wed Nov 30 07:27:23 +0000 2011
A man is lying in front of a CNN van, it’s surrounded now, cops helping them back it out. #OWS #OccupyLA Wed Nov 30 07:33:02 +0000 2011
LAPD officers just crossed through to get to the media. #OWS #OccupyLA Wed Nov 30 07:36:42 +0000 2011
Have the people captured downtown or are we captured here ourselves? Is there a difference? #OWS #OccupyLA Wed Nov 30 07:40:32 +0000 2011
There is a core of about thirty occupiers surounding a single symbolic tent before the stairs. These will be the last to go. #OWS #OccupyLA Wed Nov 30 07:47:23 +0000 2011
RT @MichaelSkolnik: Actual quote from KCAL9, “We made an agreement with LAPD to not give away their tactics.” #OccupyLA #WhatHappenedToO … Wed Nov 30 08:08:16 +0000 2011
And at that point, my device ran out of batteries. But then this happened:
At 12:18 AM an army of LAPD officers in riot gear streamed out of City Hall and into the camp. The occupiers were mostly caught off guard, as many (including myself) believed the cops were coming from the south and along the main roads. The stairs that lead out the south entrance of City Hall lead directly into the center of the camp, right where the most hardcore occupiers were seated, encircling a symbolic tent, waiting for the police to take them by force. At this point, I was standing in the middle of 1st street staying back from the crowds, trying to get a good view of what was happening. When I realized that the police were moving in, I approached the park to see if I could get a better view. Right as I did that, I saw another column of about two-hundred police approaching the park from LAPD HQ – I was directly in their way. Not interested in being beaten up or arrested I moved aside as they descended on the protest. At this point it was difficult to see anything but the mass of gear-clad cops who moved quickly and tightly together.
I did not witness any violence from either side, but it was at this very moment that my friend Tyson Zoltan Heder was being pushed to the ground by a police officer while looking through the viewfinder of his camera, attempting to photograph the process. Tyson is a freelance photographer and journalist, and he had come to the protest solely for the purpose of documenting it and had no intention to confront or resist police. After he was pushed to the ground, he demanded the name of the officer who assaulted him, loudly, but politely and without any further escalation. It was at this time that three more officers grabbed him and pushed him to the ground, confiscated his camera, put their knees to his neck and arrested him. Here is a video of the altercation:
I believe it supports Tyson’s story very well. There are other angles and accounts, of course. Tyson was arraigned today (after having his bail set at $20,000, 4x higher than most of his fellow arrestees) on charges of Battery on a Peace Officer, Assault on a Peace Officer, and Resisting Arrest, supposedly because he spit on the officer in question. I’ve scrutinized the tape and can’t see it happen at all. He is the only demonstrator that was so charged, and its hard not to notice that the vocal photographer was the subject of the greatest reaction from police.
A friend of Tyson’s has set up a fund to which you can donate to help him with the cost of defending himself and to replace the camera that LAPD destroyed in the incident.
If you’d rather make a superficial gesture of support on Facebook, you can like this page instead.
Once the police moved in, they began to methodically and effectively divide the surrounding area by posting lines at each intersection and keeping people within them. This process is called ‘kettling’ and it is extremely effective at diffusing groups bent on staying in a place. Once you’re divided from your compatriots it becomes a lot harder to feed off of the energy from others, and you become a smaller potential danger to the safety of police and others. Generally police will allow people to exit the area of the protest (by themselves, obviously) but not return, and as things got hairy I found myself moved farther and farther from the epicenter. The largest group of protesters congregated at the intersection of 1st and Main and remained there throughout the end of the eviction. Sometime around 1:30 AM the police declared it an unlawful assembly and started taking people out.
The police were intimidating in their sheer numbers and their militant demeanor, but at no point did any of them threaten or otherwise make a move toward me or those around me. They took the insults and taunts of the more crazed occupiers in stride, not once responding or reacting. From my personal vantage-point, the police handled what could have been a very messy situation int he best way possible. They pacified the demonstrators through overwhelming numbers and meticulous planning and generally sound restraint.
Not everyone feels this way, of course. I have read first hand reports of bad treatment, especially after the mainstream media pool was asked to leave the vicinity of the remaining protesters. Folks who I’ve communicated with who were arrested complained of extremely tight handcuffs and being kept in a bus waiting for booking for more than six hours. Others said they tried to leave the protest before the arrests but were prevented from doing so, all of them ended up in jail. Still more said they got away from the final fracas only to be chased by LAPD and assaulted once out of the eyes of journalists. I haven’t spoken to any police officers to hear their side of the unreported stories from this night, but I’m sure they could speak volumes. The fact is that some of the loudest and most vehement protesters seemed mentally unstable in one form or another (see the ‘drunken maniacs’ I refer to above.) This was not the case across the board, of course, but if I were a cop that would have been all I remembered. The four dozen National Lawyer Guild legal observers didn’t make as much of an impact as the insane guy who climbed a light post and almost fell and killed himself.
Once most of the kids were pulled out of the park, a team of sanitation workers arrived in hazmat suits to dismantle the camp. They set about it quickly, and even before the last protester was pulled out of his tree, the camp was mostly dismantled. The park is now fenced off and surrounded by a 24 hour patrol of 50 or so police.
So now the tents are gone. Does that mean Occupy LA is over? It depends on who you ask. You can’t evict an idea, after all. But whether a movement without a leader and without an explicit cause can survive without its primary aspect of identity (the camp) is hard to say right now. I’m just glad that the violence was minimal and that the point was made. What comes next will have to wait for another post.