If the Occupy L.A. protesters will just leave their tent city at City Hall, officials promise to supply them with offices. And a farm. And a place to live, for the homeless demonstrators who have drifted over to the encampment from skid row. And, er, how about a pony? Would you guys leave if we gave you a pony?
Jim Lafferty, an attorney who has been negotiating with the city on behalf of the demonstrators, revealed the details of the city’s offer Monday night, to wildly mixed reviews among the Occupy crowd, a leaderless group that doesn’t much appreciate private backroom negotiations among people they didn’t elect to represent them. Actually, we’re not thrilled with that notion either. If public resources are going to be handed out, shouldn’t the talks be in the open? Although details remain highly unclear, apparently the city is willing to give away 10,000 square feet of office space for $1 a year in rent and supply a plot of land to those protesters who want to farm.
This page has called, more than once, for a creative, negotiated solution to the occupation that doesn’t involve police in riot gear rousting nonviolent protesters, a scene that has played out in too many cities and university campuses for our taste. But giving away taxpayer-supported goodies to placate the group — whose cause, while worthy, isn’t necessarily more noble than many others in the past that haven’t received such generous offers from the city — isn’t quite what we had in mind. And we’re troubled by the political implications for the city, which by giving office space to the Occupy movement seems to be endorsing its aims and agenda.
If the mayor and City Council do agree to give special perks to Occupy L.A., they should explain why they didn’t give similar bonuses to, say, the South Central Farmers, who launched a years-long protest in 2006 to save a community garden in South L.A. that had been seized by the city but was returned to its former owner. Or to the May Day protesters who march yearly downtown to protest federal immigration policies. Or to any future group — neo-Nazis, anyone? — that holds City Hall for ransom by camping out there for a few months in the name of protest. Occupy L.A. has raised some legitimate points about income disparity, but that hardly entitles it to free office space.
We wouldn’t object if the city found another plot of public land somewhere for the protesters to camp on. And there’s no burning need to kick these demonstrators out immediately (the lawn is already dead, after all). But buying them off sets a bad precedent that we suspect few voters would appreciate.