Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Occupy Los Angeles Update #5 - OWS

This is the second part of my interview with Ryan Rice, who is a writer, media representative and roaming informed moderator for Occupy Los Angeles and the 99% Movement.

He has also worked closely with Occupy Oakland, and was jailed along with Kayvan Saveghi, the second military veteran who was injured by Oakland police and left in his jail cell with severe internal injuries for sixteen hours without medical treatment.

It would be irresponsible of me to post the rest of this interview, which is a lurid account of Ryan's experience in jail along with Kayvan Saveghi, without adding my own brief comment.

I don't hate cops. My father was a police officer, and so were his friends and a few other members of my family. My father is retired and although I myself am not a police officer, I grew up with cops. I can't entirely understand what it's like to be a member of law enforcement, but I do understand a few things.

It's tough to have a dangerous, sometimes violent job where you don't get paid a lot, retirement is uncertain, everyone you try to help seems to hate you and the media (and anyone with a camera) can't wait to make you look like the modern-day Gestapo. 

Most cops are very good, honest people who want to help people. If they weren't they could never get hired as law enforcement. Yes, there are some bad cops. There are also bad waiters and bad brain surgeons and bad nuclear physicists. 

Otherwise, I believe there are always more good people than bad, regardless of occupation. 

The cops in Oakland were doing what they were told to do. Ultimately, law enforcement must obey an elected public official. If the official does their job, what happened in Oakland doesn't happen.

I don't hate cops. I blame the elected officials they work for when and vote them out of office when they do a bad job, and vote into office public officials who understand people (which includes police officers) and knows how to handle peaceful demonstrators without unnecessary force, torture or confinement. 

That is my honest opinion. 

I also would like to mention that my father was a military veteran, and so were many of my friends and family growing up. I still have a lot of friends who are veterans, or who are currently serving in the military right now, and I have a tremendous respect for them.

You normally work for Occupy Los Angeles, but from what I understand you flew up to assist with Occupy Oakland. What was that like?

We got approved for funds for a van so a few of us took a trip up there. We drove up there November 2nd, Tuesday night and got there by November 3rd for the general strike. 

You were also arrested with the second military veteran, Kayvan Saveghi, who was critically injured by police officers in Oakland?

Yes. He was leaving the Occupy site when he was beaten and arrested. I myself was sick and had been sleeping in my tent when I woke up to flash bang and tear gas grenades. I wanted to find my friends and make sure they were safe, so I put on my gas mask and I went out to the “no-zone” to find my friends.

That was where most of the protestors were, defending their First Amendment rights and standing up to police. Anyone there was targeted for intimidation, brutality and arrest.

So you got to the jail after Saveghi?

We were all zip-tied, I think there was about 103 arrests. I was on a Sheriff’s bus that had about 55 people on board. They kept moving us around arbitrarily with no explanation, and they left the zip-ties on. I was with him when we were moved around from cell block A, to B, to D…I spent about 15 hours in jail, and I’d say I spent about half that time in a cell with him.

Well, the guy is a veteran. He’s a tough cookie. We were all concerned about his hands, which were visibly swollen from baton beatings. His arm, leg and side were also bruised heavily. But an internal injury can take hours before you start feeling the pain. 

With the adrenaline rush of getting beaten and arrested, that can stave off the pain for a while, but after the eighth hour he started requesting medical attention and at hour twelve he was really starting to cry for help.
At one point he was crawling down the hallway, pleading for assistance, and the guards just snickered at him.

Did they make fun of him?

They didn’t really make fun of him, they just said, “Well, we can’t help you if you can’t get up off the ground.” 

Did they know he was a veteran?


Was he targeted for intimidation because he was a veteran?

We were all targeted for intimidation by the police because we were protestors. Every opportunity the police had to intimidate us, to be arbitrarily cruel, they took. It angers me because it was so unnecessary. 

I’m speechless because we were powerless to stop this. Our rights were being violated. The police were not there to protect and serve us. They were there to protect and serve their corporate overlords. It made me so angry that I, as a protestor, was powerless to stop it. 

They are talking about another raid. I know the city council is figuring out what to do with them, how to support them. In Los Angeles the house has approved a resolution, which I believe is just empty words, but here’s the big city on the West Coast putting pressure on New York and saying, “Hey, we’re accommodating them.

Mayor Blumberg in New York City needs to accommodate the protestors down at Wall Street. So I think any kind of action by any official will be good in terms of letting other cities know how to deal with them.

I don’t know what is going to happen. The general assembly’s there are awesome, they have hundreds of people that participate. Who knows? This movement is happening so quickly, and the dynamics are changing so much that I don’t know what’s going to happen.

Do you think that Occupy Wall Street wants the same thing as Occupy L.A.? Are all of the movements protesting the same thing? Because I feel that Occupy Wall Street has one set of demands, and different cities have their own demands based on what their particular problems might be.

For instance, Oakland has had a long history of police violence, but here at Occupy L.A. it’s a different sort of feeling here, and the police have been very polite. 

I think it is important to note the individuality of these protests. When Occupy Wall Street started and Occupy L.A. began, I felt that there was an element to Occupy L.A. that was different. We were there for the financial reasons. We were there to protest the banks, to protest profits over people…

Occupy L.A. had the need to address the social issues that come with a broken, “crony-capitalism” type of system including homelessness, immigration issues…some of these issues are much more apparent in L.A. than over at Occupy Wall Street. 

So I think that each city does have it’s own space to access issues. In Oakland it was police brutality. We are all here to address the same sets of issues on a state and local level. I think that in Oakland that was a powerful component.

What do you think is going to happen next with the Occupy movement? Are you going to back up a Democratic or Republican candidate that supports your views?

I’ve spoken out against Occupy aligning itself with a broken political system. But there is some value to looking at what the Tea Party has done to promote their own agenda. I don’t agree with them, but they have successfully integrated themselves into the political process and they have brought some of the things that they want to do to their fruition. 

If we can do that, I’m not necessarily against it, but what I would like to see is not necessarily one of us running our own politicians, but I would like to see politicians that are clearly supporting us and coming to us, like Dennis Kucinich or Obama, but not just as politicians but as people who are standing up for what’s right. 
Any politician would be welcome here, if they want to stand up for what’s right.

Here's how you can help to bring real participating democracy back to the American government. Money, letters of support, supplies...everything counts.

You can donate to Occupy Wall Street, here.

You can donate to Occupy Los Angeles, here. They recently posted this important banking update on their Facebook page

Here's a link to their Amazon wish list.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has been incredibly supportive of the protesters. You can support him right back, here.

Governor Jerry Brown could take out Occupy Los Angeles with a single phone call. Write him a letter and thank him for the support.

Since most of the government stopped caring about the civil rights of Americans back in the late 90's, we're lucky we have groups like the National Lawyers Guild to defend the few we have left. You can support them here.

A letter to the LAPD in support of the demonstrations and a big donation to the Los Angeles Police Memorial Foundation will help the movement. Remember, cops are also the 99%.

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