The Occupy Movement began as this admirable movement, you know. It was initially seen as this "unemployed kids, sleeping in the park, protesting against corporate greed" kind of thing. Then, all the sudden there's some traction, and it wasn't just unemployed kids...it was fully employed working folks who are underwater on their home loans or unable to buy homes because of the heavy weight of student loans...still protesting against corporate greed. The movement became A Movement, and Occupy Wall Street started popping up in cities throughout the United States.
Here in LA, Occupy was welcomed...at first. The timing was right, Los Angeles was able to squeak out some accountability measures, you would see banks start to make small good-faith efforts to address home loans, and the dire straights homeowners had place themselves in after being sold on the idea that homeownership was the gateway drug, (or just a gateway) to being a real American.
Same time, we've got Downtown Los Angeles...continuing on her continual journey of community justification. What a term...but for those of us surrounded by a freeway, you know what I mean. "You live in Downtown? Wow! How does that work?" said in the tone that for whatever reason means that you need to justify your neighborhood, or justify that you life in a legitimate neighborhood that has industrial, retail, wholesale, and residential all built into one...and that through the grace of Grace - they co-exist.
So, here we are...Occupy and DTLA...both on their quests to justify their existence, each with their organic (in more ways than one) hopes, dreams and fears. But, here's the challenge...Artwalk.
Artwalk is a form to itself. For months, if not years...Artwalk has become a party, a way to make rent, an inexpensive venue for new, up and coming artists, and a social gathering opportunity that doesn't have a cover charge, and doesn't care which river, freeway, or subway line you had to take to get here. Artwalk has groups of people who have different roles, but there's not a single person in charge of it, and how could there be...this is an organic element. To put structure around this bit of social energy...it would have to change in such a dramatic way...you'd change the face of Artwalk, and it would likely cease being the event that it is now.
Except, even before Occupy came to town...Artwalk was using increased police presence, had disorderly artwalkers. There's certain corners you don't go to, certain bars and restaraunts you don't go to because it was Artwalk. So, if you really wanted to get into trouble and you didn't want to have to work very hard at it...just come one down to Artwalk and have yourself a good time.
Do you remember, a year ago...a 2 month old baby died while enjoying an evening out at Artwalk? Even before that, google Artwalk fights, or Artwalk drunks, or Artwalk arrests...check the time stamp...
I don't say this to point fingers at Artwalk, really...because there's no fingers to point to. And, the City, property owners, restaraunts, businesses...those who benefit and who don't benefit from Artwalk have at least have the wherewithall to continue the dialogue.
Enter Occupy LA (OLA) at Pershing Square.
1) I'm still not clear on why moving over to 626 Wilshire to the CCA offices is a OLA thing. If you look at 7th Street...you aren't seeing corporate franchises, but what you are seeing are businesses that benefitted from CCA's program to assist new businesses weave through the permitting process, tours given to prospective business owners to encourage them to locate in DTLA. Yes - there are plenty of large corporate and financial partners, but the majority of the CCA membership are small, locally owned businesses that are in DTLA to do business with other DTLA businesses.
2) Pershing Square was a rough place before OLA. There's the Farmers Market, but the rest of the time Pershing is a bit of a respite for those who call 5th/San Julian home. Pershing is a step up, a quiet spot to get away from the loud chatter of Skid Row. During the day, it might be the only quiet place for our neighbors who call the streets home aka The Homeless...to be. And, OLA - you've taken that from them. There, I've said it: OLA...your presence is gentrifying Pershing Square...you are pushinig out legitimately our underserved, underhoused, and dearly beloved neighbors to places unknown to them. And, that is sad. Because any normal person can look at Skid Row and think "this is not normal, how could a City do this to her residents?". In Downtown - this is our normal. We have homeless people, they are our neighbors! We have those who don't want to be housed...they have addictions, mental illnesses, or for some other reason - are now in a position where Pershing Square was a safe place for them to congregate during the day...and now that is lost.
And, if you aren't usually in DTLA, you'd never notice the shift.
The people who've left the park did not ask to be a part of OLA, for those who are now sleeping in the crevases of 7th Street, moved up to the underpasses at 4th...they did not ask to be a part of your revolution. They just are trying to get through the next 4 minutes. These are individuals who have no level of comfort in dealing with others. It's like putting someone who has terrible stage fright on live network, with a studio audience of 100.
OLA, I miss the days of the Occupy Message - fight corporate greed, work for loan reform, expect accountability from our financial institutions. I hope you can get back on track, but you really need to do it quickly.