Long Beach residents and community organizers took to the streets and gathered at Lincoln Park in the city’s downtown district last weekend to protest in solidarity with the Occupy Together movement. The Occupy Long Beach events culminated on Sunday with two arrests and two other citations after a number of participants came to disagreements with the police officers who attempted to usher them out of the public park.
The purpose of the non-violent, non-partisan movement, which continues to spread across the country, is to protest corporate greed. Following the Declaration of the Occupation of New York City document and intending to help represent the disadvantaged “99 percent” majority that is suffering from an unfair global economy, the hundreds of sign-wielding protestors chanted and expressed their concerns over the “one percent” of corporate America that they believe have come to run the government.
In light of the New York City General Assembly occupying Wall Street in Liberty Square, more than 250 students, community advocates and educators occupied and rallied in the city’s financial district Saturday morning. The crowd then marched to Lincoln Park for the general assembly that continued well into Sunday, as people began setting up temporary shelters at night.
In a press release sent to the Signal Tribune by event coordinators, local organizer Tammara Phillips echoed the event’s purpose and said, “We are a grassroots, local movement in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street…we are the 99 percent.” Cal State Long Beach student and organizer Ben Fisher attended the protests and said he had worked closely with the City beforehand to ensure that participation in the movement was as transparent as possible.
Still, Fisher said that he and the other organizers never received the proper cooperation and partnership from the City, and in an email sent to several news outlets on Oct. 17, he described many instances throughout the evening when police officials would harass protesters over the manner in which they could occupy the park.
“Before sundown, the City set up three sets of floodlights running on loud portable generators,” Fisher wrote in the email. “Between the brightness of the lights, the droning of the generators, and constant harassment by the LBPD, Occupy Long Beach was up all night.”
In a press release recapping Saturday’s events, the Long Beach Police Department (LBPD) characterized the demonstration as a display of mutual respect between police and the demonstrating community with demonstrators able to express their First Amendment rights to freedom of speech while obeying all applicable laws.
The LBPD issued another press release on Oct. 17 to illustrate the outcome of Sunday’s demonstration. Police officials said that as the night neared 10pm, the hour in which the park closed, the group grew to approximately 75 in attendance and were warned to disperse. Most subjects proceeded to exit the park and move onto the sidewalk, however police officials made the decision to arrest 30-year-old Jason James and a minor for failing to comply with the request to vacate the park.
According to the press release, the group chanted and yelled in defiance of police while they searched other tents in the park. Lakewood resident Louis Rodriguez and Seal Beach resident Jonathan Allen were issued citations and released at the scene.
Colleges also partook in the Occupy Together movement, including Long Beach City College (LBCC), which coordinated Occupy LBCC on Monday evening and established a similar encampment at the Liberal Arts Campus lawn. The Occupy Los Angeles event took place the evening of Oct. 19 when occupiers marched from Olvera Street.
At the Oct. 19 Long Beach City Council meeting, five supporters of the Occupy Long Beach movement spoke or stated the reasons for being involved in the movement during the public-comment portion. Voicing their support of the movement, 1st District Councilmember Robert Garcia addressed the noise and pollution of the lighting generators, and 8th District Councilmember Rae Gabelich suggested that some modification of the non-camping statutes be considered, according to Phillips’s email and confirmed Thursday by Gabelich.