The Gilded Rage

Citing the repair of the grounds and the restoration of the park to public use, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa issued an eviction notice for the Occupy encampment at City Hall Park on Friday.  With the mayor’s deadline of 12:01 tomorrow morning looming, Occupy Los Angeles prepares for a major shift in the movement.  It is the last major stronghold to be decamped, but its removal should not be its demise.  Call it Occupy 2.0, an inevitable and necessary transition to a more efficient and effective method of mass protest…

In Los Angeles, though, you might just call it 3.0, for there has been an Occupy Wall Street here long before a few hundred protesters gathered in Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park.  OccupyLA 1.0 is Skid Row, replete with hundreds of people camping in tents on Wall St. and the adjacent streets around 5th… yes, LA’s Wall St. is in the epicenter of the largest homeless population in the country!  Estimates of the homeless on Skid Row range from a couple thousand to over five thousand, with the fastest growing percentage being families.

Skid Row has a long and lurid history of neglect by the city, specifically in its failure to create enough affordable housing there, which led to mass numbers of people sleeping in the street in tents and cardboard boxes.  The arrests of street camping homeless led the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to sue the city in 2006.  Since that time, homeless have been allowed to erect tents and sleeping areas between the hours of 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. nightly.

Wall Street, Skid Row is a logical and inspirational destination for the next phase of OccupyLA, as that particular location is emblematic of the modern Gilded Age.  The original Gilded Age was a period marked by Social Darwinism, glaring income disparity, and decadence of the moneyed class.  How apt for our current state of economic affairs, both locally and globally!  OccupyLA has an amazing opportunity to affect change in Skid Row (and beyond) by highlighting the problem of extreme poverty there.  Here’s my proposal…

Post-raid, everyone marches in solidarity to Wall Street, Skid Row, and erects tents on the sidewalk surrounding the Police Station there (for safety precaution).  We look for a building in the area to function as a command center for the committees, security for assets and equipment, and a storage space for tents during the day which will have to be broken down by 6 a.m.  Perhaps a landlord will be able to donate space, or to discount that space for the cause.  Having a physical working location is imperative for continuance of the movement.  Missions could provide showers and bathrooms.  General Assemblies could be held in Pershing Square.  This is the rough framework.

Many will argue that there is inherent danger.  There is.  Both to Occupiers and to the homeless.  There is obviously crime and drug use in Skid Row.  The already scant resources there provided by various missions and community organizations will be further strained.  However, change will not occur from the comfort of a campground in Griffith Park.  Change will not occur from making anyone comfortable, period.  Change comes from pain.  Yes, Skid Row is a problem, but in order for anyone in government to change it, it must be a bigger problem.  This is not a task for the timid, for the faint of heart.  This is a bold call to action, a call to rage…  A call to rage against the modern Gilded Age!

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