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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.
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20 Lessons For Non-Violent Protest You Can RT #occupywallstreet

I must admit, I was skeptical that the rag-tag protests that started in NYC would spread as fast as they have. But as we saw with 1968, and now in 2011, protests in one country can easily spill over to other countries. Now protests in one city, have spread around the country.

Led by idealistic young people intent on changing the status quo we are on the cusp of nationwide upheaval. Lack of jobs, corporate greed and government corruption are at the top of the lists of complaints.

As the protests in intensify, I have compiled these 20 tweetable lessons from my years in non-violent protests and movements. Please feel free to tweet and Facebook these.

1) The police are not an enemy, treat them like friends, they are just doing their job #occupywallstreet

2) Non-violence means non-violence. Never use violence, even when treated with violence. No broken windows! #occupywallstreet

3) NEVER resist arrest. Just go limp. #occupywallstreet

4) Plane arrests to happen on your terms. #occupywallstreet

5) Singing is always heard louder than shouting #occupywallstreet

6) Treat each other with love and respect, even when you have disagreements on tactics #occupywallstreet

7) Change takes time and patience, one march cannot change the world, but 1,000 will. #occupywallstreet

8) Appoint spokespeople for media, and don’t claim to speak for everyone unless you do. #occupywallstreet

9) VERY important – you need marked peacekeepers to intervene btw cops and protestors #occupywallstreet

10) Handout rules of non-violence to everyone, tweet them, text them, live them #occupywallstreet

11) Don’t dehumanize your opponents, teach them #occupywallstreet

12) Don’t demonize the media, get them on your side. #occupywallstreet

13) Keep your eye on the prize, don’t be distracted by counter-protestors #occupywallstreet

14) Never give over to hate and anger, love looks better on TV #occupywallstreet

15) Be considerate of everyones personal space, including guys in suits. #occupywallstreet

16) Signs work. Signs that can be read from far away work really well. #occupywallstreet

17) Don’t make it “us against them.” We all need to find a way in this world together. #occupywallstreet

18) Encourage clergy to join you by being peaceful. People will notice. (think MLK) #occupywallstreet

19) Act righteously if your cause is righteous #occupywallstreet

20) 450,000 Israelis marched peacefully. Learn from them. #occupywallstreet