Over a thousand people gathered in Pershing Square Oct. 1 to kick off Occupy LA, an action in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement that has started in major cities all over the country.
Anger at the political system is boiling over. Frustrations are high over massive layoffs, home foreclosures, budget cuts, war, occupation, racism, environmental devastation and a wide array of other social problems created and perpetuated by the top 1 percent, This has driven activists and protesters, many young and new to political action, into full mobilization and occupation at Los Angeles City Hall.
The morning began with excitement as people gathered in the middle of Pershing Square to hype up the crowd and go over the logistics of the march to City Hall. Protesters began the march through busy downtown LA holding banners, homemade signs, placards and posters that read “End the war on working people,” “Tax the rich!” and “We are the 99%” while chanting “Banks got bailed out, we got sold out!”
Angry chants focused on the economic crisis facing working-class people and the devastation created by the banks and Wall Street, but also evoked other struggles affecting the diverse group of protesters that are part in the occupy movement. These included the fight for immigrant rights and struggles against the attacks on education and LGBT bigotry.
Stephanie Cuevas, a 19-year-old student about to begin college, spoke to Liberation News about why she came to support the action: “Money for schools continues to get cut and the government doesn’t care. They give money to the banks when they’re in trouble but let the poor starve.”
Cuevas pointed out that it will be the people themselves that will create real change through protests and occupations because “the banks own the politicians that are supposed to be working for the people.”
Robert Osorio, a college student from East Los Angeles, expressed his excitement at seeing thousands of activists and organizers supporting Occupy LA, dissolving the stereotype of apathy among young people. He told Liberation News, "It is time for a people's movement to end a broken system that has proven again and again to be uninterested in the needs of the majority that live in this country." He also stressed the importance of staying strong and showing solidarity with the occupations happening nationwide.
The peaceful march went down Broadway as onlookers applauded and yelled in support of the action and the protesters.
As the march reached the steps of City Hall, a people’s speakout and rally was held. ANSWER LA (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) provided sound equipment to the speakers and emceed while dozens came up to voice their anger at the economic crisis and call for strength and unity in the movement. Young and old took part and shared their experiences of marginalization and dissatisfaction with bankers and politicians.
March Forward! organizer and Iraq war veteran Kevin Baker spoke out about Wall Street's wars and their impact on working-class people, saying, "The real enemy of working people aren't the people in Iraq, Afghanistan or Pakistan, they're the people on Wall Street, in Congress and the White House."
People cheered as he demanded that money stop being funneled into wars in the Middle East and around the world and instead be used to fund jobs, education and health care here at home.
Energy was not lost after the speak-out as hundreds continued to meet and talk to fellow protesters and prepare for the nights of occupying ahead.
This was an important first step in raising consciousness about the crimes being committed by the banks and corporations and the fight ahead for justice and equality. Together with our sisters and brothers occupying all over the country we will show the bosses that their time is up and the people have the power!