Occupy L.A. movement gains momentum

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of events sprung up in solidarity with New York’s Occupy Wall Street movement. The gatherings took place in metropolitan areas across the U.S., and even internationally. This week, the movement emerged on the West Coast.

“California is ripe for this kind of movement,” says Heidi Fulzdorf, one of the organizers of the recent Occupy Los Angeles group. “This not a Wall Street, one-place kind of movement, this is a national movement. We can get that many people and more in L.A.”

Starting Saturday Oct. 1, the Occupy L.A. group joined the movement in a protest that started at downtown’s Pershing Square and ended at City Hall where they made their camp on the north lawn.

Nearly a thousand people attended the protest with the numbers expected to double on the weekend.

The small group of about 15 organizers who fostered Occupy L.A., said it started, like many movements, on the Internet.

“We got together in a little tiny chat room,” says Fulzdorf. “We organized online first, then our first meeting was Friday in Pershing Square, and that’s the seed of this whole thing.”

So, in what has become the movement’s trademark style, the organizers reached out through social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook, and organized a general assembly meeting on Sept. 25, where 40 to 50 attendees voted to march from Pershing Square to City Hall on Oct. 1.

Mario Brito, an out-of-work construction worker who helped organize the movement, explains what the movement means.

“It’s about the wealth inequalities, the 99 percent owning only one percent of the wealth while the top 1 percent has 99 percent,” says Brito. “The reality is that the banks got bailed out, and Main Street got sold out, and that’s what this whole thing is about--economic justice, and creating a better society.”

The mother protests in New York, though originally intended to be peaceful in nature, have spawned some heated incidents, including a protest that moved to the Brooklyn Bridge and ended in the arrest of 700 protesters.

Zach Addair, one of the 700 arrested, says, “We were detained for like 11 hours, and then we were let go,” adding that protesters usually just “went back out there” after being released.

The arrests did little to stifle the momentum of the movement.

Since then, it has only been getting “bigger and bigger,” Addair said.

Dozens of unions across the nation have joined in support of this growing movement.

While the exact numbers change from hour to hour, almost every protest has managed to consistently keep a few hundred people at the events at all times.

Many protests are planned to start later this week, and the hacktivist group Anonymous, a collective hacking force, has issued a threat to shut down the New York Stock Exchange.

The Los Angeles protests have thus far succeeded in avoiding major conflict.

Fulzdorf says that the group has made attempts to acquire all required permits and permission, and that the LAPD has actually been highly supportive.

“The police are helping us really organize a very big crowd,” Addair says. “I mean, they are the 99 percent, they have issues with their pensions and their benefits. A lot of them support us on a personal level. They’re being super-generous and kind and amenable to anyone who is willing to give them a smile.”

The protesters are currently camped out at City Hall with no plans to go anywhere.

Numerous upcoming events and workshops are planned for the next several days, and Fulzdorf hopes the atmosphere of peace will remain.

“I can’t see the future,” she says. “And no one can. But there’s a lot of people here and I think there is good faith on both sides.”