12:45pm | On Saturday night, Occupy Long Beach plans to occupy Lincoln Park past its 10 p.m. closing time. And according to a group representative we'll call Demos1, "Arrests are going to happen."
This is not because Occupy Long Beach is looking for trouble — quite the contrary, they say — but simply because meetings group representatives had Thursday with city officials in an effort to find some "middle ground" did not prove as fruitful as the group had hoped.
"We're very fond of the fact that the [Occupy] group in Los Angeles has really been able to partner with the police, partner with the city, let them know what's going on and have a very productive relationship together in a way that worked for both groups," said Demos Thursday night. "That's why we went to the city council. And we got a lot of verbal support from them. So [subsequently] we went to Special Events and the police, because that's who needs to know about this event. But we did not really get the same kind of support from them."
The Occupy movement started last month with Occupy Wall Street, where thousands have come together under the slogan/philosophy "We Are The 99%" to proclaim, "[We] will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the 1%. We are using the revolutionary Arab Spring tactic to achieve our ends." Since then, numerous other Occupy groups have sprung up.2
Occupy Long Beach has been coalescing over the last couple of weeks. A representative of Occupy Long Beach3 spoke at city council on October 4, and representatives were interviewed by Dave Wielenga on the October 7 broadcast of Greater Long Beach Internet Radio.
Occupy Long Beach's Lincoln Park occupation is in part a response to Occupy Wall Street's call for "the world [to] rise up as one" on October 15 against "the global economic system … and say, 'We have had enough! We are a new beginning, a global fight on all fronts that will usher in an era of shared prosperity, respect, mutual aid, and dignity.'"
Says Demos, "Really, what we're looking for from what I believe is a progressive city is to find a way to exercise our First Amendment rights to assemble to create community and talk about what issues are important to us, and also to be there in solidarity with the Occupy movement in Wall Street. … We're not out to cause trouble; we're not out to attack the City and use up city resources. This is a much bigger issue than just Long Beach, and we're just trying to get Long Beach to allow us to exercise our rights in solidarity with that movement. "
Demos says that while Occupy Long Beach has been disappointed thus far with the response from the City, further discussions are planned for Friday. "We're trying to find a way to work with the City, but so far we haven't really been able to bridge any ground on that," he says. "We're going to continue to reach out, but we are going to be doing the occupation [in Lincoln Park] on Saturday."
And Demos foresees arrests, since he believes that even if the City makes some accommodations for Occupy Long Beach, the police will not allow members to occupy Lincoln Park overnight — and some members will refuse to bow to that pressure.
"There were definitely people [at the Occupy Long Beach meeting] tonight who firmly said, 'This is not a movement about asking the powers that be if things are okay to do or not: this is a movement about taking back our power,'" Demos reported. "And those people will not be asking if it's okay or not."
But Demos emphasizes that this is completely non-violent, non-destructive movement.
Demos spoke with Long Beach Post in advance of the event partly in the hopes of making it clear to residents what Occupy Long Beach is about, and that its members tried to help city officials understand its rationale and ethos so members could occupy without incident.
"I think it's important for the public to understand before these arrests happen that we are trying to figure out a way to make this work for everyone," Demos said. "Because my concern is that this could actually happen, and people might think, 'Oh, look at these troublemakers.' But we've made it very clear to the City that we are non-violent, that we're interested in creating change for the 99 percent of us — which includes you and everyone we met with today. I think it's a really positive cause, and I want to make sure that message doesn't get lost when they see people getting arrested and they think, 'Well, what did these guys do that's illegal and that's causing so much trouble?'"
Demos, who describes himself as "a full-time student and fully employed," rejects the media stereotype that the majority of Occupy members are jobless. "The vast majority of the Occupy Long Beach [members] are fully employed or partially employed," he says. "And for those people who are fully employed, it's a really big decision to decide to get arrested. … For me personally, I'm still kind of debating it. I do need to go into work on Monday, so considering that the following day is a Sunday, that may or may not happen if I decide to stay there [i.e., in Lincoln Park past 10 p.m.]."
Occupy Long Beach will begin gathering Saturday in Lincoln Park (at Pacific Avenue and Broadway) at 10 a.m. A rally begins at 11 a.m., with a 1:30 p.m. open mic for people to share and "hear the reality of people's lives and how this system has really affected them and why [the Occupy movement] is important. … We are meant to represent 99 percent of the U.S. population. Therefore, we need people to make sure they are coming out and getting involved and having their voices be heard so we can accurately represent that 99 percent of people."
At about 6 p.m. Occupy Long Beach will hold its general assembly, an open group discussion of pertinent issues and the "highest decision making body of our movement," which should conclude prior to 10 p.m.
What happens after 10 p.m.? Occupy Long Beach hopes for little more than a good night's sleep.
1 Greek, meaning "the people."
2 occupytogether.org lists over 1,500 cities worldwide in which related meet-ups are taking place.
3 Namely, Tammara Phillips. Her remarks in part:
Mine is just one of the millions of stories of hardworking Americans who played by the rules but are struggling just to live. We are the 99 percent. And we may not have the answers yet, but we've awoken to the fact that our government in Washington, D.C., no longer represents us. Corporate money has vastly tipped the political scales, and individuals feel powerless to affect change through the normal paradigm. We are banding together in solidarity to demand accountability for our failed economy. … The Occupy Together movement is the 99 percent collectively demanding real change. We will no longer sit on the sidelines while the robber barons hijack the American Dream.