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Holiday reflection, and resolve, at Occupy L.A.

Some activists at the City Hall encampment look back at what they've accomplished, while others vow to stay on the lawn. They also celebrate 'International Giving Thanks Day,' complete with two turkeys from the Police Department.

November 25, 2011|By Esmeralda Bermudez, Los Angeles Times
  • Brent Aguilar eats a Thanksgiving meal along with other Occupy L.A. demonstrators on the steps of City Hall. Hundreds lined up throughout the day for a variety of donated food, including two turkeys from the Police Department.
Brent Aguilar eats a Thanksgiving meal along with other Occupy L.A. demonstrators… (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles…)

When Thanksgiving Day arrived at Occupy L.A. on Thursday, campers greeted the occasion in true revolutionary form: They boycotted the holiday's name.

"We are calling it International Giving Thanks Day," Regina Quetzal-Quinones said. "It's a day of sovereignty and healing."

With city officials and police making plans to clear the encampment after seven weeks of protests, some demonstrators reflected on what they had accomplished, while others vowed to remain on the lawn of City Hall.

PHOTOS: Occupy protests

As if to communicate to activists that their time was nearing an end, city authorities marked the holiday by posting signs that told protesters the park was closed from 10:30 p.m. to 5 a.m. The move drew boos and hisses, and at least one sign was defaced.

"It would be a tragic mistake to remove everyone," said Jose Muñoz, a 45-year-old warehouse worker who joined the camp when it began Oct. 1.

Like many, Sheila Nicholls recognized the occupation is bound to end soon, so she savored this Thanksgiving all the more.

"I'm really grateful for this experience," she said. "I've learned so much and made connections with all kinds of people that I would have never met otherwise."

She pointed around the camp to the small neighborhoods that formed over the weeks.

"That, over there, is the area for moms and kids and that's the Love Tribe," she said. "And way over there is Music Camp and also the Bike Scum area."

The L.A. site is the country's largest remaining Occupy protest after camps in New York, Oakland and other cities were shut down in recent weeks.

For much of the day Thursday, demonstrators did exactly what they've been doing for so many weeks: occupy the once lush Civic Center park. One bearded man twisted into yoga positions as another danced to rancheras and another drowsily yelled out from his tent, "Dude, where's the pot?"

But they also celebrated the holiday. Throughout the morning, donations poured into the tented kitchen: ham and biscuits, pumpkin pie and chicken, gravy and cranberry sauce and sweet potatoes. Two stuffed turkeys also arrived from the Police Department.

"Gifts from one of the commanders," one volunteer said.

Dinner began around noon as dozens of campers — some activists, some homeless people — lined up and awaited their turn. Some also took part in an indigenous blessing paying tribute to Native Americans killed by settlers.

On the northwest side of the lawn, Shaun Gregory, 23, and a few friends hung out as if they were at a Thanksgiving barbecue, their tents spread in a circle around a booming stereo.

The Utah native moved to the City Hall lawn from skid row after he heard he could keep his tent up all day.

"On skid row, the cops would make me take it down at 5 a.m.," Gregory said. "But here, it's cool."

He took part in a few marches, he said, but mostly he steered clear of Occupy meetings because "they argued too much and never got anything done."

Though Wall Street continues unaffected by the protest, and some are still unclear of its demands, many campers said they felt they accomplished a great deal. And they plan to continue.

"We've been able to come together with the same concerns," said Carlos Marroquin, a 52-year-old mailman who lost his home in 2007. "Workers, labor unions, churches. We've formed a movement, and it's not going to go away any time soon."

FULL COVERAGE: Occupy Wall Street protests around the nation

esmeralda.bermudez@latimes.com

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