As we drove down the 101 southbound and saw the skyline of Los Angeles ahead of us the tension was palpable. We understood that this night would be another decisive moment in the global struggle for justice. On November 30, Occupy L.A., which has maintained a presence at the steps of City Hall for two months while campaigning against the incestuous relationship between government and corporate America, faced imminent eviction. Our twitter feeds and chat-rooms awash with information, we called one of the demonstrators on the ground to get one final update before we pulled into downtown. The last thing he said before promptly hanging up was, “Oh my God, there are buses full of cops just streaming in here. I can't believe what I am seeing.”
The scene was indeed surreal. We witnessed non-stop convoys of police vehicles and buses bringing in what ultimately, according to Reuters, were 1,400 police officers in full riot gear – a force so large that they had to use Dodger Stadium to stage the whole operation. One CBS reporter watching them from the air was quoted saying, "We've actually never seen this many LAPD officers in one spot,” Bulldozers moved in, armored buses for detainees arrived, police climbed into hazmat suits, and the roundup of peaceful protesters had begun. In a scene out of the Hollywood play-book, the final warnings rang out over loudspeakers as a massive contingent of officers symbolically marched down the steps of City Hall.
This was not going to be another grainy cell phone video either, the “approved” media pool armed with the latest high-definition cameras and high fidelity boom microphones would be there to document the entire production. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was directing his own Hollywood epic, complete with air support and raw emotion. The only question is who would be cashing in on this production. Surely it wouldn't be the already stretched-thin taxpayers of Los Angeles who funded it. No, it would ironically be the indignant generation, the Occupy movement, that would benefit the most.
The Occupy strategy that was so successful from Oakland to New York was finally paying off in L.A. Villaraigosa had proven that when push comes to shove, our First Amendment rights to free speech and free assembly would be trampled upon. He showed his hand and the Occupy movement was on display in full high definition glory. Armed with an epic cache of viral videos, tweets, and mainstream media attention, the indignants were finally ready to take it to the next level. While this movement was initially born and coordinated online, it was only after they had bridged that digital divide by taking to the parks and streets, that it would be able to inspire legions of indignant Americans to denounce the corporate hijacking of their rapidly vanishing pension plans and life savings.
Limitless financial influence in political campaigns and all branches of government have morally and financially bankrupted our country. The Glass–Steagall Act, which regulated the separation of commercial and investment banks and founded the FDIC for the sole purpose of protecting bank deposits, is one victim of this libertine relationship between money and politics. The FDIC now holds a grand total of $75 trillion dollars in toxic assets and derivative products from the very investment banks it was supposed to protect American citizens from. It is worth mentioning that while Bank of America was dumping an additional $22 trillion of these volatile derivative products on the FDIC, they were announcing their third quarter profits: $6.2 billion.
The hyper-connected indignant generation aspires to change the face of politics globally, taking aim at any and all actors of oppression and injustice. Autocratic rulers like Hozni Mubarak and Bashar Al-Asaad are not spared nor are the U.S.-based companies such as BlueCoat and Cisco Systems that support government surveillance and censorship operations. “The whole world is watching” is one of the occupy movement’s signature lines and they mean it. From Cairo and Damascus to New York and Los Angeles the pressure is mounting and the message is clear: “You cannot evict an idea whose time has come.”
Alex Luhrman is an IT consultant and Occupy Santa Barbara participant.