Posts

,

A Rabbi’s Testimony: The Repression and Elimination of OccupyLA

Protester is pinned to the cement by four LAPD officers during non-violent civil disobedience at OccupyLA Nov. 29, 2011. Notice the severity of his treatment after sitting in a circle in the middle of City Hall park after being ordered to leave.

There are many reports, videos and photos online capturing the protests, violence, and arrests as the final, large-scale, Occupy protest in the country came to end. Nonetheless, I feel compelled to tell my story as a clergy witness to the police crackdown on dissident voices and the disappointing conduct of Mayor Villaraigosa and the leadership of the Los Angeles Police Department.It’s difficult to describe the entirety of events which took place as OccupyLA was raided and dismantled late Tuesday night, November 29th, into the early morning hours on November 30th. The protest had persevered for two months camped out at the foot of LA City Hall through torrential rains and heat. OccupyLA was unlike anything the city has ever seen. (See my article “Don’t be Afraid of People in Tents, Learn From Them,” in the HuffingtonPost.com) As I write these words I am still overwhelmed with emotion thinking of the amazing community of righteousness, giving, and tolerance, crushed in one evening by the Los Angeles Police Department and the Mayor.

When news of the impending eviction of the protest reached me by text message, I rushed downtown wearing a hastily made shirt with “CLERGY” written in duck tape on the back. I intended to be there when the hammer dropped. Having served as a clergy witness at the Bank of America civil-disobedience on November 17th, I was intent on bearing witness to the end of OccupyLA.

Police had posted temporary no-parking signs on every street within three blocks of city hall. I found an all-night parking lot a half-mile away, and walked quickly to the park. People streamed in from every direction. People were already marching around the park waving signs, swelling the number of suporters of OccupyLA to what seemed like a thousand..  Starting around eight o’clock that evening, I stood with other clergy in the center of the park in a circle hoping and praying for a peaceful resolution of the impending conflict. We also offered hugs and spiritual support to those who needed it. We were a mixed interfaith group of clergy – Christians, Muslims and Jews — many who were familiar with one another from other social justice campaigns.
Read more