'Occupy LA' protesters take residence at LA's City Hall
Several hundred demonstrators marched on City Hall Saturday, as part of an protest to "occupy Los Angeles," an event that follows ongoing protests aimed at Wall Street in New York.
A crowd of around 1,000 left Pershing Square around 11 a.m. and began marching down Broadway towards City Hall. The procession stretched about eight city blocks and slowed traffic along Broadway, holding handmade signs that called for everything from class war to global peace. Many business owners stepped outside to watch or wave as the crowd passed.
"All of these people,all of the taxes they've paid, that's just going straight to the banks to help people that don't need help," Ana L. Hernandez, 19, said at Saturday's protest. "We need to help the people that need the help, and not the people that already have money."
The L.A. demonstration is part of a national effort to call attention to a series of issues protesters feel are interrelated: The need for job creation and access to quality healthcare, anger at government cuts in education spending, and frustration at the perceived special treatment banks and other financial institutions receive at a time when many Americans are struggling.
Marchers chanted, "We are the 99 percent" as they headed to L.A.'s City Hall, where many settled in to a more pastoral protest, setting up tents and forming drum circles. The Occupy L.A. website asks marchers to bring sleeping bags, food, supplies and friends.
Rain Thomas, a 31-year-old military veteran who said she plans on staying downtown "until they make us leave," lost her job in the hospitality industry in January of 2010. She says she's been unable to find permanent work since. She showed up on Saturday with a sleeping bag, tent, and supplies to last her several days.
“Our government has gotten into bed with the banks and the large corporations and it's destroying democracy," Thomas said. "I’m out here fighting for every single person, whether they were born rich or poor, black or white, in the United States to have the ability to make money, go to school, and have a home and a nice car and the American dream.”
Many protesters arrived with ready-made signs, other’s borrowed cardboard and art supplies to make signs at the last minute. Supporters of the group spoke to lay a few ground rules, asking protesters to avoid violence and law-breaking.
Demonstrator Bill Galloway brought his 5-year-old granddaughter to the event.
"I think it's very good for her to see democracy in action," he said. Although he calls himself “fortunate” to have a secure union job, Galloway sympathizes with those who have been hit hardest by the economy. “Basically, the economy effects everybody. We’re all sharing the same experience."
By evening, several hundred protesters remained Downtown on the lawn outside City Hall.
Volunteers from the National Lawyers Guild talked to the protesters about their legal rights, in the event that they're confronted by police.
Rough relations between police and protesters in New York’s "Occupy Wall Street" demonstration have generated a lot of attention. For two weeks hundreds of them have camped out in a park near the nation’s financial center.
KPCC's Katherine Davis contributed to this report
For live updates on the Occupy LA protest see coverage at KPCC's blogdowntown