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Put Occupy L.A. on the road

Moving protesters from City Hall to different sites around the region by bus could bring new energy, attention and focus to the movement.

November 30, 2011|Steve Lopez
  • John Fritzlen, 67, a former Peace Corps volunteer and retired teacher, has been photographing Occupy L.A.'s encampment since it started in early October.
John Fritzlen, 67, a former Peace Corps volunteer and retired teacher,… (Michael Robinson Chavez…)

I found several used buses for sale on Craigslist on Tuesday, at prices as low as $900, and here's my advice to Occupy L.A.:

Buy one.

If the tents at City Hall haven't already been removed by the time you read this, they soon will be. And Occupy L.A. can either fizzle, or it can come up with a second act.

PHOTOS: Occupy L.A.

From the beginning, the national Occupy movement has tapped into public anger over the corrupting power of money in politics and the economic disparity in a system rigged to benefit the few at the expense of the many. I've been a little cranky about the lack of creativity and initiative at Occupy L.A., but I've never discounted how important the movement has been in raising those issues.

So my vote would be for a second act that takes the occupation on the road.

You've heard of Meals on Wheels?

This would be Squeals on Wheels.

If a college rally were being held against budget cuts and tuition hikes, the Occupiers would head to it — and scream the loudest.

No such rally? Occupy would call one, drawing a crowd through social media channels.

Occupiers could stage read-ins at the hundreds of Los Angeles Unified schools that have lost library staffers.

And sit-ins on the front lawns of every CEO who got a fat bonus while laying off employees.

They could occupy the driveways of executives from international banks that have been implicated in the laundering of millions of dollars for Mexican drug gangs.

And as I've said before, I don't know why there's no "Occupy Disneyland," where the productivity of hotel laundry workers is documented by a device they call the electronic whip. Meanwhile, the workers fear a spike in their share of health insurance costs even as Disney Chief Executive Bob Iger, who made $28 million last year, was handed a raise.

Rudy Castro, a 34-year-old novelist ("Guardian of a Gangster") and documentary filmmaker who's a member of Occupy L.A.'s General Assembly, told me he likes the bus idea. Talks are ongoing, he said, about what to do next, but the bus would come in handy for planned demonstrations at the Port of Los Angeles and the Rose Parade. Castro argued that the local movement has done a good job of raising consciousness and starting conversations, as well as occasionally demonstrating beyond City Hall, but he agreed it's time to find creative ways to keep the momentum going.

OK, so you maintain a daily presence on the steps at City Hall. But you also pack as many people as you can onto the bus, sending them out on a mission to educate and agitate — legally, but loudly.

A new Field Poll, by the way, says 58% of Californians support the cause, but only 49% identify with the protesters. The good news is that people know things are seriously out of whack economically and politically. But the polling also suggests that they may have been turned off by the drugs, the ranters or the divisions among various subgroups that pitched tents at City Hall.

All the more reason to target specific actions around Southern California, start up the bus and raise a ruckus, with a different destination each day.

How hard would it be to gather predatory lending victims who've lost their homes in the Inland Empire and march on the banks that profited from their misery?

The next time gas pump prices hit new highs while oil company profits break records, the bus riders could drop in on one coastal refinery after another and ask why California has no oil excise tax?

"It would be a little bit like Ken Kesey and the Magic Bus," said John Fritzlen, 67, an Occupy L.A. participant from Day One. Yes, and "We are the 99%" could be spray-painted on the bus in psychedelic homage. But no LSD, this time. There's work to be done.

I met Fritzlen in the middle of the night, or actually in the early morning hours on Monday at City Hall. He's a former Peace Corps volunteer and retired teacher who has been taking pictures at Occupy for two months (you can see a gallery of his work at http://www.latimes.com/lopez). Fritzlen has been inspired by the energy, diversity and shared sense of moral outrage, yet frustrated by the lack of consensus on how to advance the cause.

One of his big issues is the skimping on public library and education funding, "Because they're cutting back the very thing that could make a recovery possible." He also lists healthcare reform and tough banking regulations as priorities but thinks the root of most evil is the obscene amount of money in politics.

So what if every time a politician held a fundraiser in Southern California, a busload of occupiers arrived to ever-so-politely spoil the party? While some of them distributed pamphlets on the merits of public financing, others could read aloud the names of donors who always get something in return, guaranteed.

OK, maybe one bus isn't enough.

A fleet, perhaps?

FULL COVERAGE: Occupy protests

steve.lopez@latimes.com

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