Occupy Long Beach is being held at Lincoln Park, the oldest park in Long Beach, Calif. The park is small. A very short walk to City Hall makes it an ideal location for Occupy Long Beach protesters to meet up. It has also been a long time hangout for the city’s homeless population due to its nearness to facilities that provide services for those who call the streets their home. At 10 p.m. when the park closes, homeless people leave finding a place to sleep.
Long Beach city police worked out an arrangement with the OLB people, allowing them to move tents and sleeping bags to sidewalks abutting Lincoln Park at 10 p.m. Some of the city’s homeless residents resent this. An Occupy lady said the reason they are allowed to stay near the park overnight is because they are there for a purpose. The homeless, she surmises, are not.
In the past, there have been incidents at Lincoln Park involving homeless people, stabbings and deaths. Occupy Long Beach arrests include a homeless couple for allegedly making terroristic threats and two protesters were arrested for domestic violence. A few Occupy people were arrested for violating the 10 p.m. curfew. I was told by one of the protesters that the few who were ticketed for remaining after hours were drunk and belligerent.
Thus far, the protest has been peaceful. Matt, who joined Occupy Wall Street in Los Angeles on “day one” thinks the L.A. demonstration is more peaceful than in Long Beach. He claims only one person was arrested in L.A. for shooting heroin in a restroom.
When a large white bus stopped at the curb, I was told it was bringing people from L.A. to join Long Beach’s protest. About five people got off the bus. Matt spoke to a young man from San Diego. The man said they are losing people in San Diego; protesters are drifting away. Matt said he had been arranging buses to take people from Los Angeles to San Diego and would do what he could to help.
When I spoke to Kelly about perceptions of those who join the Occupy movement, she told me she is 36-years-old and works 100 hours a week. She scoffed at the idea of being considered a spoiled college student wanting to take money from other people’s pocket to put in her own.
Fifty some year-old, Claude, said he was homeless just for “this month”. He agrees with the principles behind the Occupy Wall Street movement. Doug spent years living on the streets. He has been off them for four years. He too agrees with the concept and had much to say on the subject of wealthy corporations running the United States of America.
“Who exactly are the 1 percent?” I asked. “For instance, is Madonna considered a member of the wealthy elite?” The consensus of opinion was that she is not, but could be. That is, they did not know. Someone likened the 1 percent to evil. Those around me agreed that Madonna is not evil, she is for the people, that if one purchases her CD, they willingly giving her their money, unlike tax dollars paid going to wealthy corporations via tax breaks or bailouts.
Many news articles I have read about Occupy Wall Street say the protesters have no leader and have no clear idea why they are protesting. A bit of research shows that Adbusters called upon citizens to Occupy Wall Street beginning on September 17. They hope that by people coming together, having dialogues they would reach an agreement on a singular demand that needs to be met before the protesters disperse. Adbusters states, in part: “the American political establishment is currently unworthy of being called a democracy: we demand that Barack Obama ordain a Presidential Commission tasked with ending the influence money has over our representatives in Washington.”
From my conversations with people like Kelly, Matt, Claude and Doug, that is exactly why they are taking time out of their lives to sit at Lincoln Park during the day and for some, sleeping on a nearby sidewalk overnight.