Opinion
Reading Los Angeles: Join The Times' new book club
Opinion Opinion L.A.

Newton: City Hall's embrace of Occupy L.A.

What's a rebel to do? In New York, demonstrators have tussled with police, and in Rome, authorities used tear gas on them. Meanwhile, members of Occupy L.A. pitched their tents, erected their signs and girded for battle with the establishment, only to discover that City Hall has no interest in fighting back.

On what were once the lawns of City Hall sits a squatters community. There are the requisite signs and banners celebrating Che Guevara; condemning police abuse, banks and the corporate media; and demanding that the rich be taxed, the poor educated and the environment protected. Most of the protesters seem to be having a good time, and the encampment is thick with earnestness, though a few of the residents wear bandannas over their faces to show how dangerous they are.

The demonstrators occasionally make their presence known inside the building as well, descending on meetings of the City Council and using the time set aside for public comment to present a diverse, if occasionally incoherent, agenda. Last week, some demonstrators accused council members of being corrupted by campaign contributions, while others, in a dig at the council's recent approval of the football stadium project being championed by AEG, urged the council to go ahead and build the stadium — on the site of City Hall.

But rather than seeking ways to silence the protesters or evict them from the grounds, a majority of the council has embraced them. Take this statement: "Today corporations hold undue influence and power in our country, and the key to this power is the corporate claim to 'personhood.'" Or this one: "Americans must resolve some of the divisive economic and social realities facing our nation in a peaceful way to avoid further deterioration of our greatest asset — our human capital." Those come not from Occupy L.A. but from the City Council's resolution in support of the protest; the resolution was signed by seven members and adopted by a vote of 11 to 0, with three members absent.

Councilman Bernard C. Parks is used to standing apart from his colleagues, and this time was no exception. "I did not believe we should be constructing motions to people who just show up on our lawn," he explained last week. Other council members have mingled with the protesters. Not Parks. "I have not been out there, and I won't go out there," he said. "They certainly don't look like anybody who lives in the 8th District."

Parks is a former police chief, so it's hardly a surprise that he's unmoved by the pleas of those engaging in civil disobedience. But the demonstrators' bigger problem is not who's against them but who's with them.

Even as the tents were stirring to life one morning last week, the council was at work making the protest seem rational by comparison. Councilman Dennis Zine introduced a motion to require all city workers to report "waste, fraud and abuse." What would happen to those who failed to report under the new rule? He hadn't considered that yet. And what does it mean to report waste? That too was unresolved. The council sent his motion off to the city attorney, presumably hoping his staff could make sense of it.

And then there was Councilman Ed Reyes. More than a year ago, he wrote a resolution calling for an economic boycott of Arizona, which members approved to express their disapproval of that state's mean-spirited and ill-considered attempt to create its own immigration policy. Last week, Reyes asked the council to exempt itself from it. Why? He and other members wanted to attend a convention of the National League of Cities in Phoenix, and Reyes argued that an exception should be made to the boycott because Phoenix officials opposed the immigration bill. Phoenix, for the record, is in Arizona.

How to help the Phoenix economy without helping Arizona's was apparently beyond the scope of Reyes' reasoning. No matter. After first proposing that the council waive its boycott and go to Phoenix, he then withdrew the idea, to the relief of his colleagues. Some might be confused, he conceded. Why would anyone be confused by a councilman advocating a boycott and then moving to violate it? There, Reyes found solidarity with his friends camped outside. He blamed the media.

jim.newton@latimes.com

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
Related Content
  • 'Would you attend a gay wedding?' -- a question meant to trip up, not inform
    'Would you attend a gay wedding?' -- a question meant to trip up, not inform

    A few weeks ago, Jorge Ramos of Fusion asked Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) if he would attend the gay wedding of a loved one. Rubio responded, “If it's somebody in my life that I care for, of course I would.” Rubio went on to say that he doesn't have to agree with someone on every issue in order to...

  • Baltimore and the language of change
    Baltimore and the language of change

    For the last half-century, invoking the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. to condemn or explain black urban uprisings has been a mandatory exercise. Recent events in Baltimore are no exception. Critics say that destroying property and attacking police desecrate King's ideals and draw attention away from...

  • SUNY chimp case questions animals' right to freedom
    SUNY chimp case questions animals' right to freedom

    When a court hearing was ordered to determine whether two chimpanzees, named Hercules and Leo, are being “unlawfully detained” by the State University of New York at Stony Brook, the primates (and their lawyers) made a bit of history. No, New York State Supreme Court Justice Barbara Jaffe did not...

  • Two bills protecting patients in healthcare networks deserve passage
    Two bills protecting patients in healthcare networks deserve passage

    The heathcare reforms in the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act remain a work in progress, with some of the law's mandates causing new problems or exacerbating older flaws. One is inaccurate lists of the healthcare providers in insurers' networks; another is surprise bills by out-of-network...

  • In hiking the minimum wage, don't leave tipped workers behind
    In hiking the minimum wage, don't leave tipped workers behind

    Who is responsible for paying a worker's wage? The business owner or the customer? That question is at the heart of a debate over whether business owners in California should be able to pay their tipped workers a lower minimum wage.

  • Hillary Clinton's conflict-of-interest problems
    Hillary Clinton's conflict-of-interest problems

    The harshest charges against Hillary Rodham Clinton — that she made decisions that favored donors to her family's charitable foundation when she was secretary of State — aren't sticking. Yes, the Obama administration approved a donor's sale of U.S. uranium mines to a Russian firm, but Clinton does...

Comments
Loading