On Monday, October 24, 2011, thirteen brave souls ventured forth from the loving embrace of Occupy Los Angeles' base camp. They strode with purpose as their footsteps echoed throughout the corridors of Civic Center Metro Station. Their destination: a guitar pick-shaped slice of freedom. There was a man they needed to see.
Not twelve hours earlier, the group had learned that President Barack Obama was coming to town. Always an excellent guest, Mr. Obama was due to grace Hancock Park with his presence. They say one cannot put a price on love, but at a cool $35,800 per plate, Mr. Obama was sure to bring a lot of "heart" to the evening.
In case you didn't know, there is, in fact, a "free-est" space in the country. To find it, you need only stride to your nearest wide-laned, bourgeois neighborhood. There you will likely find a strip of pavement separating the lanes of traffic. If you look long enough, you just might find one with a bit of green space in the middle. Since 1939, and as recently as 1997 (Warren v. Fairfax), median strips and traffic islands have been upheld as a never-closing bastion for First-Amendment assembly and demonstration.
Armed with this knowledge, the group arrived at their destination: The Southern corner of Wilshire and Highland. Cheers were heard; tents were pitched. Game on.
Nary an hour later, with the location having been secured, the second wave arrived. They brought with them signage, water, and the impressions from many they had left behind that they were completely insane.
The Freedom Fifty, now haphazardly assembled, immediately leapt into Action! ...and waited. An ABC7 news van sat parked across the street at an El Pollo Loco. Their appetites eventually sated, its occupants gradually filed out of the restaurant, saw the Freedom Fifty assembled and demonstrating, and...got in their van and drove away. Typical.
Ninety minutes of lively activism later, an unmarked Crown Vic pulled up in the nearby 7/11's driveway. Within minutes, there were police everywhere. Caution tape was stretched. Protesting continued.
The police eventually approached. Some looked amused; others less so. The Freedom Fifty were told to leave; the Secret Service, under Title 18, was declaring a safe zone. The Freedom Fifty sat down instead. Supreme Court precedent was read. Phone numbers of lawyers were written on bodies.
A short while later, about the time CNN was interviewing the Occupy Los Angeles base camp about a surprise flash mob some distance away (even the media cannot enter a safe zone, apparently), the police again approached. Their tune had changed! The Freedom Fifty could stay! ...if:
- They relinquished all flags, signs on sticks, tent poles, tent stakes, basically any object that might tempt one to assault a convoy of five-ton, bulletproof vehicles with a hundred-plus police escort.
- They took down their tents.
- They moved off the traffic island altogether.
- They remained on the sidewalk at all times.
- They never stopped moving.
This seemed perfectly reasonable. Ten minutes later, an ambassador for the Freedom Fifty approached the officers. His/her list was shorter:
- Relinquish all flags, signs on sticks, extra tent poles, tent stakes - in the car.
- Fuck no.
- Fuck no.
- Fuck no.
- Fuck no.
For the next two hours things were rather boring. With neither cars nor foot traffic allowed for a mile around, there was no one to protest. Until suddenly, there came a rumble from beyond the horizon...
Special thanks to LAPD for being such champs, and to the snipers who did not shoot us in the face!