Kess Kessler of Woodland Hills is a longtime Democratic Party activist. Kessler currently chairs the California Democratic Party’s Senior Caucus, he sits on the CDP Executive Board as well as the Executive Board for the Democratic Party of the San Fernando Valley, and is Treasurer of the Valley Grassroots for Democracy club.
My wife Agi and I drove past the LA City Hall a couple weeks ago, not long after the Occupy LA protestors were evicted by police. The former home of Occupy Los Angeles had been cordoned off by chain link fence, with signs indicating no one was allowed in. This didn’t seem too out-of-line, once I thought about it. The city wanted to repair the lawn, etc. Then I saw several police cars parked there, obviously to prevent protestors retaking the site.
I was overwhelmed by the feeling that a great friendly meeting place was gone. It struck me that part of the Occupy feeling reminded me of being at the Renaissance Pleasure Faire of old, in Calabasas – with fun good times and people celebrating life, if only for a day. Then I instantly contrasted this to what was directly in front of us – the massive downtown structures, cement buildings, sterile, wide unfriendly streets almost devoid of life, with hardly a person in sight.
I began to think about the discussions, the speeches, the conversations, the democracy and general assemblies of Occupy LA. I was saddened by the thought that our physical society is all about assets, property, money, shopping. The minds of most citizens follow the same media-directed thoughts. How can we not?
Our neighborhoods, our malls, our buildings, our everything – it all ignores the democratic institutions which are the basis for our way of life.
I couldn’t name any other place, besides Occupy Los Angeles on the City Hall lawn, where citizens could routinely get together to discuss their thoughts about anything, let alone the real problems of our society. I’ve been active in the Democratic Party for many years, and even I can’t say that the Democratic organizations in which I have proudly served – like the California Democratic Party and Los Angeles County Democratic Party – have had the effect I’ve wanted, after all this time.
Consider the simple change in our city organization, from business on Main St USA to the pseudo-main-street Westfield Malls, and the result – it is almost impossible for political discussion or protest to occur inside a shopping mall’s “private property.” Valley Grassroots for Democracy, a club for which I serve as an officer, has tried to engage in democratic conversation at shopping malls, and come under increasingly onerous rules.
Many malls have almost no use of their tiny, designated “public spaces.” If any exchange of money is involved – like asking a few dollars for a political pin we designed – activists are warned, then banned. (VGFD was thrown out of Fashion square for six months!) Voter Registration must be non-partisan. No candidate signs or literature, no crowds, no active recruiting, etc. Even Girl Scouts collecting donations for cookies are a threat that must be prevented!
Occupy anywhere was a breath of fresh air. People were learning, discussing and protesting about things which involve us all. Citizens have to find new ways to re-commit ourselves to issues the Occupy Wall Street movement still seeks to change, even if they no longer have parks to use as rallying points.
We are the 99% and we do need to re-establish that citizens should be in control of our government – not the 1%, not the lobbyists, not only people or corporations with money to buy what they want at the expense of the rest of us.
As a Democrat, I have worked again and again for candidates who seemed to believe as I do, yet this process has accomplished very little.
The loss of Occupy Los Angeles has left me inconsolable.