Special Report Editor
With rising unemployment rates and a plummeting economy, the American people took to the streets on Sept. 14 to form the Occupy Wallstreet Movement.
Armed with a heavy online presence and an arsenal of signs broadcasting their grievances, participants soon began creating local Occupy groups and thus Occupy Los Angeles was formed. Headquartered on the lawn of Los Angeles City Hall, the Movement saw its numbers increase as more citizens attended to voice their concerns and decrease as their tent city was dismantled 60 days after its start. The Occupy L.A. movement was the longest-standing one in the nation.
The Occupy Movement has made the transition from occupying public parks to foreclosed homes, in what they deem a protest of the rate of foreclosure.
However, protesting foreclosure is not the singular cause of Occupy. the protestors are as diverse as the causes they are protesting for. Samo senior Gus Graef and juniors Ivan Rios-Fetchko and Leo Erickson stepped into the fray to voice their opinions and bring ideas back to the student body from the streets.
“You are fighting for your right to fight. It’s fighting for your right to try to change what you think is wrong with your government, what you think is wrong economically, politically and socio-economically. I went down there to fight for my right to assemble,” Graef said.
Graef was keeping track of the Occupy Wallstreet movement in the news and on websites such as reddit.com, until he made his first trek to Downtown L.A. on Oct. 1, the official first day of the Occupy movement, after receiving an invitation via Facebook. As the protests continued he returned, often meeting up with friends to discover and explore the new aspects of the quickly growing movement.
“I haven’t spent as much time as I’d like to there. I spent some time in some meetings, like with the Facilitation Committee whose members run the general assembly. It really surprised me how much work they put in to running the General Assemblies (GA),” Graef said. “I get to talk to so many different people — so many people have educated me.”
Graef’s experiences at Occupy L.A. led him to attempt to bring greater awareness to the Samo community though a miniature “Peoples Assembly” on campus, which aimed to clear up questions about the Occupy Movement.
“Most people just dismissed [the movement]; a couple asked what its purpose is,” Rios-Fetchko said.
Indeed, many Samo students do find themselves lost in the fluctuating answers that emerge whenever a protestor is asked what they are fighting for.
In actuality, the Occupy emblem serves as an umbrella under which many smaller movements have found a home.
“The Movement isn’t just one issue. It’s all issues jumbled up into one movement where people can actually spread their ideas and tell the world what they are concerned about,” Erickson said.
On the Occupy L.A. website, which serves as the head of the expansive online presence, this multi-faceted cause has been stressed in the official DECLARATION OF OCCUPATION, which accuses corporations of a wide variety of charges. The accusations range from discrimination in the workplace and animal cruelty to the enormity of student loan related debt and giving highly ranked officials bonuses while the general population survives in a low economy. The Declaration further states that by occupying public spaces, the Movement aims to call attention to and address these problems while exploring solutions accessible to all.
Although this laundry list of problems can appear daunting to an Occupy newcomer, most participants have a largely positive reaction.
“The first time I witnessed a GA meeting it was really inspiring. I thought, ‘if this is how they can work, how can I work that into my daily life with people that I know and how can we work out similar problems in school or in life using the method of just talking it out,’” Erickson said.
These ideals of creating a conversation were quickly put into action as the Movement grew, but after the LAPD-enforced eviction of the Occupy L.A. encampment on Nov. 30, the camp city was dismantled and protestors began trying to define their movement without a concrete home.
“I think the reason for people to stay there so long was because culture and everything flies by you. If they had done a couple of marches and said ‘look,’ people would have noticed for a week and then said, ‘ok, lets keep up with the Kardashians.’ But they were there; they were a constant presence and that forced people to look at them. It forced you to say ‘why are these people here? Why?’” Rios-Fetchko said.
However, as the seasons and the public’s views on the Occupy Movement change, so do the opportunities.
“People think this is the end of a movement — it’s not. In New York they were evicted from Zuccotti Park and the Movement is just as strong. They still use Zuccotti Park as a place for meetings and now they are squatting and occupying foreclosed homes, especially because winter is coming and they are not going to be able to be outside,” Graef said.
Tents or not, the Movement is determined to continue in the same manner in which they began: one day at a time.
To learn more about the Occupy Los Angeles Movement, go to occupylosangeles.org