On Friday, December 2, the Los Angeles Police Department finally decided to release most of 200+ Occupy LA protesters who had been held in detention for more than 48 hours. Many of them were expected to show up at the General Assembly scheduled for 7:30 p.m on the south steps of City Hall. So I cruised down to see what I could find out…
I parked two blocks away and walked to City Hall on foot. It was almost unrecognizable. The park/square in front of the building, as well as the grassy areas running along the perimeter, were now completely blocked off with concrete barriers and a high chain-link fence. It was an eerie sight. What had been filled with tents, people and activity just a few days ago was now empty and scrubbed clean. The area looked condemned.
And there were cops everywhere. Some stood in packs around their police cars, others patrolled the fenced-off perimeter on foot while motorcycle cops circled the block in pairs. There were reinforcements outside LAPD’s massive headquarters, conveniently located across the street from City Hall. Cops eyed me suspiciously as I walked by, and there were at least a half-dozen uniformed cops perched on the stairs above the assembly, listening to the GA proceedings. It was as if the city expected a surprise guerrilla raid.
LAPD’s death-star HQ is conveniently located across from the now-raided Occupy LA camp…
But the GA must have been a letdown for the cops. There was no riot, no guerrilla raid. The meeting was chaotic and unfocused–more of a social gathering than anything else. People ate, greeted each other and traded the latest news and gossip. By the time I took off at around 10 p.m., the assembly was over and everyone had begun to disperse…
But while not much happened at the meeting, I did manage to meet up with a few of my jail buddies and get more info on some of the abuses I had witnessed and described in my last post. [Read Yasha Levine's account of LAPD's appalling treatment of detained Occupy LA protesters.]
For instance: Remember the seriously injured protester, who had been shot with a shotgun beanbag round and had an oozing bloody welt the size of a grapefruit just above his elbow, but denied medical attention for five hours? I was only able to speak to him for a few minutes when we were locked up at Metro jail and never got his name, but it turns out he was one of the guys who constructed a makeshift tree house between three tall palm trees and sat up there for hours with two other people, refusing to come down. He said they were the last to be arrested, sometime around 4:30 a.m., when the cops finally got hold of a cherry picker platform, and a cop in full-on riot gear forced them down at gunpoint. From what I understand, it was at this point that Chad was shot with a beanbag round.
Chad and his buddies kept the LAPD busy for hours. The cops must have been pissed off, and making an injured kid squirm on a concrete floor with a bleeding wound, hands handcuffed behind his back for hours on end, must have felt like the perfect payback…
So now that most of the detained protesters have been released, what is our legal status? Are we going to be prosecuted? Well, that’s not very clear.
I’ve been charged with misdemeanor# 409PC: failure to disperse (or, as my booking officer put down on my prisoner’s receipt, it’s “fail to disclose”). My court date is set for early January, so I guess I’ll find out then. But apparently I shouldn’t expect the city to drop the charge. Here is what LA Weekly reported on Friday evening:
City Attorney’s criminal branch Chief Earl Thomas tells the Weekly virtually no one is getting off scot-free.
He said that while about 175 people were released today they could still be charged. Those folks were determined to be eligible for the Alternative Prosecution Program, a 90-day love fest in which suspects can enroll and avoid prosecution.
Thomas said a special agenda would be formulated for the Occupy arrestees, one that would focus on First Amendment education:
We’ll include a First Amendment law component about having to stay within the law in terms of conduct. We don’t care what the message is but we are concerned about illegal conduct.
Those people don’t have the accept the program and can chose to duke it out in court.
Ha! So there you have it, folks. Not only does the City of Los Angeles arrest those who exercise their constitutional right to peacefully protest (or in my case simply to report on a peaceful protest), apparently it now requires anyone caught exercising that right to enroll in a political reeducation camp.
PS: I want to thank readers for all your support, now and over the past few years. Many have asked if there’s something you can do to help, and there probably will be. I’ll be talking to the National Lawyers Guild on how to proceed, but I plan on fighting this bullshit charge all the way. So I might need to hit you up for some legal help…
PPS: Some of you have already donated a bit of dough, and that is always greatly appreciated.
Want to know more? Read Yasha Levine’s account of LAPD’s appalling treatment of detained Occupy LA protesters.
Yasha Levine is an editor of The eXiled. You can reach him at levine [at] exiledonline.com.
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