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The Battle for Wall Street
The ring of a bicycle bell chimes repeatedly through the air - breaking the monotony of the muzak version of “La Cucaracha” resounding in loops from a stopped ice cream truck. Both are lost amongst the excited chatter of the large crowd congregating in an alley just off Main and 99th Streets as those gathered shelter themselves in thin layers of shade from the heat of the late July sun. Around the corner, a woman in curlers argues with a young man with tattoos and large plugs in his ears, “Your boss is a thief, and you ain’t nothing but his lackey.” Ariana Alcaraz, of the L.A. Anti-Eviction Campaign (L.A.A.E.C), checks her phone repeatedly, waiting for the go signal. The final battle for Wall Street is about to begin.
Two weeks earlier, on July 12, 2013, three men sat in a car on Wall St. just south of 99th St. in South Los Angeles, stalking the movements of Ms. Cathelene Hughes. As soon as Ms. Hughes left to attend a function at her church, the men crept quickly to her door, broke in, and ILLEGALLY changed the locks. These men were not unknown to Ms. Hughes. They worked for Strategic Acquisitions, agents of Colony Realty, which is owned and operated by Thomas Barrack of Santa Monica. Colony had purchased the title to her home for pennies on the dollar at a trustee’s sale in August 2012.
After being informed by a neighbor what was happening, the 71years young Ms. Hughes immediately called both the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and the LAPD and attempted to file reports in person. As instructed by LAPD, she waited in front of her home for three hours for a lieutenant to arrive and do his duty under the law - to reverse the lockout- all the while frantically making phone calls and looking for a safe place to spend the night with her pet chihuahua Prince, who was locked in the house when the investors changed the locks. As the warm sunlight gave way to the cold darkness, Ms. Hughes called the police station again. The lieutenant wasn’t coming.
Mrs. Hughes was another victim of bank fraud. Her income was inflated on her loan application, and her mortgage nearly doubled after just two years. “I was denied a modification ten times because my loan was adjusting. I had no idea it was an adjustable. A guy from Countrywide called and told me that it was adjusting a couple weeks before they did it. Then he explained the situation to me.”
She paid thousands of dollars to people promising to negotiate modifications. Bank of America, which took over her original lender Countrywide in 2008, sold her house to Colony Realty - even as her bankruptcy application, which would have given her time to find an attorney, was pending in court.
In February 2013, Colony, under the subsidiary Colfin AI CA 5, an LLC which Colony uses to acquire properties in dispute, evicted Ms. Hughes from her home. Even though she had been working with a social worker from Adult Protective Services, the only housing available to her was a temporary homeless shelter. She had played by the rules her whole life - worked within the system as far as she could go, done everything she was asked to do - yet still, she had lost her home. She had learned too late that “the system isn’t made to help us, only to exploit us until we have nothing left, then they throw us away.” That was when Ms. Cathelene Hughes decided to change the rules.
She joined the Los Angeles Anti-Eviction Campaign, a human rights organization dedicated to fostering a culture of self defense against the exploitation of poor communities, and filed a suit for title against Deutsche Bank, Bank of America, and Colony, as well as an eviction lawsuit against Peter Baher, CEO of Strategic on the basis of fraud. She obtained a judgment and a writ of execution against Baher, and on March 6 the L.A. Sheriff’s Department allowed her to move back into her vacant home.
Ms. Hughes wasted no time during the few peaceful weeks after reclaiming her home. She opened an Anti-Eviction Campaign office in her garage, helping several of her neighbors stop their evictions, and holding community events and meetings in both English and Spanish - successfully bridging the language and culture gap between longtime neighbors who until recently had been strangers to one another.
Over the next four months, amid constant harassment and attempted intimidation by agents of Colony and Strategic, Ms. Hughes went about proving that the system is prejudiced against anyone attempting to fight an eviction as a defendant. Even after filing 5 separate ex-parte motions and attending almost a dozen court hearings, billionaire Thomas Barrack still could not manage to legally re-evict her. The only way for Colony to regain control of the property they had helped Deutsch and BOA steal from Ms. Hughes was to send their thugs to perform an illegal lock out.
It’s now July 29 and the crowd in the alley - joined by friends and neighbors, as well as supporters from Los Angeles Community Action Network, Revolutionary Autonomous Communities, LA Human Right to Housing Collective, and Occupy Fights Foreclosure - has swelled to over 50. Around the corner, Ms. Hughes continues to argue with the man with the plugs, one of the Strategic agents who preformed the illegal lock out. He insists that she finish moving her things in the next 10 minutes - warning her that whatever she can’t pack in that time will go in the trash - to which Ms. Hughes, her son, Dion, and the two L.A.A.E.C. members in the house respond with disregard.
As he steps outside to call more employees, in an attempt to intimidate his point home, Ms. Hughes looks at one of her fellow organizers and nods her head. A text is sent immediately, “GO”. The crowd begins to move quickly up the block, a group of neighborhood children with “No Displacement Zone” signs taped to the handlebars of their bikes lead the way, proclaiming loudly, “WE WANT FREEDOM!!” The crowd rounds the corner and swarms into the house, pushing the shocked agent out of the yard and into the street. “Who’s house? MS. HUGHES HOUSE!”
The Strategic agent retreats down the street to call the police as expected. Some of Ms. Hughes’s supporters set up a popcorn maker and a hot dog machine while others help her finish moving her things out of the house. More neighbors flock to her house, joining the festive atmosphere. The crowd continues to chant loudly “FIGHT! FIGHT! FIGHT! HOUSING IS A HUMAN RIGHT!”
Within 15 minutes, an LAPD lieutenant arrives with 35 officers in tow. They are greeted by Eric Post, a representative of the National Lawyer’s Guild, who has courteously printed out the law on illegal lock outs and is more than ready to explain it in great detail to every officer on scene. While the police block off the street to prevent more neighbors from joining the crowd, Ms. Hughes finishes loading her meager possessions into a U-Haul.
A line of 15 police move in and are visibly surprised when the crowd shifts to let them through. This action was never about keeping her home. Ms. Hughes did this to prove a point, and the LAPD, in their attempts to criminalize her legal and constitutionally protected activity, proved it better than she ever could have alone.
The crowd gathers on the corners outside the police line. A neighbor speak up, “Somebody tried to break into my house last month, the police never came, I had to go down to the station to file a report, but they come out in force like this just to kick an elder out of her house? It’s ridiculous.” Another chimes in, “The only time we see the police is when they’re attacking us.”
Ms. Hughes, along with millions of others across the country, was yet another victim of the largest scam in world history. Thomas Barrack was one of countless investors whose greed nearly caused the collapse of the world economy. He is now profiting from his crimes by buying properties distressed by the market conditions that he helped create at a fraction of their value (Colfin has acquired over 7000 trustee’s deeds just since June 2011). Colony and Deutsche Bank are now gearing up to bundle these rental contracts into securities - creating yet another bubble that will put many more people on the streets when it bursts. But have dozens of officers ever shown up at his home? No.
Malcolm X once said, “In America, Democracy is hypocrisy.” Through her actions, Ms. Hughes proved to her friends and neighbors that this is true. She has still not been able to secure long term housing. When asked what was next for her, she selflessly replied, “Well, there are still a lot of people who need help.”
As she stated in a letter circulated to her community earlier that July day, “Yes, I am tired. I am tired of being victimized, I am tired of being intimidated, I am tired of being afraid, I am tired of allowing more and more vital things to be taken away while keeping quiet, desperately trying to hold on to the meager things I need to survive. I am tired of the police we pay to protect us instead protecting those who exploit and attack us. While I may legally be able to do what I have done today, I do not do this for myself. I do this to give you an example of how to fight back, because only if we stand together can we win.”
"Peace to you, if you are willing to fight for it." - Ramona Hampton
For more info on our comrades at LAAEC or to get involved, please visit and “like” their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/laantieviction
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On Friday 23rd March, a group of empowered OLA women came together to announce the following to the General Assembly, and seek their assistance in finding a solution. This announcement and ensuing discussion was livestreamed and recorded in the minutes of OLA’s General Assembly. The women’s circle has decided to meet again this week to decide on their next course of action in holding Sam Resnick accountable. A women’s hotline and support group for fellow victims of assault will soon be starting.
On February 16, 2012, Sam Resnick, a former medic from the Wellness committee sexually assaulted a young woman who wishes to remain anonymous. Anonymous was woken up to her crotch area being groped by Sam Resnick as he was heavily breathing which Anonymous is assuming he was masturbating. Post-incident, the victim did not know who to turn to regarding her assault and felt compelled to addressing the issue on her own by trying to confront Sam Resnick herself, and in doing so Mr. Resnick’s response was “Sorry, I don’t know what to say.” Anonymous wishes to not take this matter to the police and seeks to work this issue out as a community. A women’s circle was formed and letters were drafted to Sam Resnick asking that he not attend Occupy LA-related actions for a month to ease Anonymous’ comfort with attending actions and feeling safe. Inclusively, he has been contacted many times to attend a women’s circle to hear the stories of other sexual assault victims and how they have dealt with the emotional damage in hopes that he can understand and provide Anonymous with an honest apology. Sam Resnick has admitted to his actions but has declined to comply with these terms, has not tried to contact us after declining, and has stated on his Facebook: “Taking my professor’s advice and taking a break from activism outside of school for a while. I’ll be back on M1GS.” Sam Resnick asked us to ”Not Parade his personal issues” but we believe that it is important to alert our community, especially the women in our community of what Sam Resnick has done, to prevent further incidents from occurring. This is not a personal issue, this is an issue that affects everyone within our community. There have been some similar incidents that occurred when the camp was still on that went by unaddressed and we feel that is because women did not have a safe space or support group within the occupation to bring awareness to these incidents.
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Six Months of InTentCity #M17
OLA Flash occupation & street festival
12 PM Saturday March 17, 2012
Solidarity Park at 100 W. 1st Street
Help us create a world where all may thrive
It’s been six months. A sigh escapes my lips as I gaze into an empty Solidarity Park. It feels Jurassic. It’s nearing midnight in a desolate downtown LA, and I’m contemplating some tired ferns and ghostly mist. This isn’t a public square, it’s an exhibit. Where are the dinosaurs and monsters that once roamed downtown Los Angeles? Where are the psychedelic freak shows and the legions of determined youth in Guy Fawkes masks? The yoga instructors, the People’s Collective University guest professors, the pot activists, the spirited drum circles and breakout discussion groups and consensus pizza games… where are they?
The rational side of my brain knows the answer as I look to where Star Tribe used to make camp. All that remains is a scrawled anarchist “A” and a forgotten bicycle tire still locked to the City Hall grate. I remember when City Hall was more than just cold stone and rows of tired flags. I remember when City Hall was alive. Do you?
Before there was the Fascist Fence, there was Love Tribe and Kids’ Village. Before there was police tape and intimidation patrols, there was a bucket of humanity splattered around the seats of power in Los Angeles. Ninety-niners from all walks of life came to Solidarity Park for what is was - both real and imagined. It was a haven for the downtrodden, where basic medical services and food were provided free of charge. It was a boisterous declaration of what could be better, and it was fought for by handing out delicious organic carrot juice or painting a magnificent purple vampire octopus or by living in a fucking tent for sixty days.
It’s been six months. The perspective on that time frame is hard to judge, especially since my pocket watch doesn’t tell time. A cherished gift from a loved one, the timepiece is engraved with my initials and the words, “An Occupier of the People’s Evolution - 10/1/11” The damned thing hasn’t kept time since I received it - which is exactly how a revolutionary watch should be. There is no winning or losing the revolution, there is only the struggle, which is ongoing.
The false urgency the mainstream media shoves down your throat doesn’t matter. The election is a farce, that’s why we began occupying in the first place. The only true urgency can be found in the wisdom of a fellow occupier. When asked what his demand is, he replied, “Come outside.” We have an urgent and immediate duty to come outside and occupy space. We must be visible, we must speak truth to power, and we must come together.
It’s been six months. Six months since those brave few in Manhattan pitched tents and planted black flags for freedom. But its also been years for the Egyptians, decades for the Palestinians, and centuries for indigenous peoples and our comrades of color. This oppressive system is not simply going to roll over and die. We must smash it.
In these few months we’ve seen the sophomoric debt ceiling argument fade away to be replaced by mentions of capitalism and income inequality. We’ve witnessed tens of thousands take the streets. We’ve had the pleasure to facilitate over a million people move their money to credit unions and pressured Bank of America into hastily reversing their $5 debit card fee. In just six months, millions of Americans have been shocked awake to the gross realities of illegal foreclosures and police brutality. What comes next in this revolution?
It’s up to us. The rollercoaster of activism is filled with joys and miseries, victories and setbacks. Luckily for us, this revolution is also sometimes blessedly funny. It’s funny because there will be cuddle puddles and safety breaks at this festival. Emma would be proud because this revolutionary festival also has dancing, courtesy of DJ M1GS and all you movers and shakers out there. This revolution has tasty vegan food, courtesy of volunteers in our Food Committee and Food Not Bombs. This revolution has truth, courtesy of teach-outs and OLA’s Freedom School. The revolution will not be televised… you’ve got to Come Outside.
We’re still here, and we’re growing. This Saturday, Spring is here.
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Background: Reformist members of OLA have been holding a picnic, without GA approval, and with the overt opposition of Radical OLA, in Macarthur Park. After Revolutionary Autonomous Communities (RAC) politely told picnickers to be more cognizant and respectful of the local community, the picnickers were asked by Radical members of OLA to find an alternative location. They refused. On Sunday, February 26th, this happened:
It was a sure sign that ‘God’ loves RAC-LA and “don’t like ugly”.
RAC-LA which has for 4 years and 4 months operated a free Food Program by, with, and for the poor, homeless, migrant and unemployed residents of the MacArthur Park area found the police called upon us because we were blocking off a space so that trucks bringing food and carrying away compostables (the bins of which weigh can easily weigh above a hundred ponds.)
Lately the park has seen an opportunistic invasion on Sundays as some people who call themselves ‘The Occupicnic’ seeking shelter for their ‘picnic’ in a working-class area, i.e. where cops are less likely to bother them.
A woman named Debbie’ (SEE PHOTO ATTACHED) pulled up and demanded this spot because she had a handicap sticker. Being handicapped she had no more ‘right’ to the space than any other of the many cars that had passed by looking for a space Sunday—or the 10s of thousands that have passed by us since we’ve been here—saw what we were doing and got on. There was a handicap space right across Wilshire and two more around the corner on Wilshire. Pitiful piece of shit playing the victim so as to dictate her will.
This woman strikes me as a professional victim whose been playing ‘cards’ all her life. She had no greater ‘right’ to the space than the over 100 vehicles that had passed by today or the thousands since we’ve been there and respected what was being done. Or the at least 3 cop cars that had passed todau and the hundreds if not thousands of time they had passed us us ‘breaking the law’ for 4 and a third years.
4 and a half years the cops have passed us by and said nothing about our cones blocking off parking after some initial confrontations that ceased with our workers having acquired the support that the local residents give us. Now, she done put it in the cops faces that they ain’t ‘doing their jobs’ and we expect to be under pressure with this for a while now making it difficult to take food off the trucks and putting compost bins on the truck.
This is where the problems with these people has been all along: they assume that their ‘work’—if you can call it that—has to be more important than anything the locals (whose territory they are invading (not occupying)) could possibly be doing. Saw that about a month ago when one of them came and started to get some of our cardboard (that a member recycles) without asking. Another did the same prior to that with fruit. Its rankest privilege. Its the assumption that what they’re doing is certainly more important than anything that the mere working class might have organized itself to do. Its the assumption that these neophytes and wanna-bes are entitled because they think they are what they think they are. There is also member of OLA whom I have witnessed communicating with the police, inviting them to food. RAC-LA does not cooperate with the police. We survived their harassment of us at the beginnings and periodically since by the strength of our membership and those we give food to in staring down and, occasionally, standing them off. This situation presents complexities seemingly not understood by members of OLA.
When I went down and called them out one silly m’f’er said “I’ll tell ya what to do…Get your people to stand with you.” What the fuck did this young jerk know about anything? He hadn’t a clue to the years of hard work that RAC-LA had put in and faced down with the cops.
It ain’t just a sign off a lack of class consciousness its signs of plain old self-important rudeness.
Here’s where I blame that group as a whole in the park: They apparently gave no time to brief their members on the neighborhood. This itself might indicate that they themselves took no time to find out about it. And, in spite of this woman calling the same m’f’ers who beat up and kicked out Occupy LA, they took no action to kick her out which is the only way that they might have salvaged some of the motivations that caused the group to be formed in the first place. Salvaged some credibility.
If she’s is yapping to the cops about us over a goddamn parking space what else might she be yapping about. This fucking snitch ought not be welcome anywhere anybody is trying to do anything about the state of our class.
Below is a picture of the OLA snitch. Apparently the woman is called Debbie and has been attending OLA GA’s for only a few short weeks.
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OLAASM mourns today the loss of a true comrade, Alex Weinschenker, who fell victim to the disease of addiction and the illegal war on drugs. Alex was a radical, an anarchist, a fearless warrior for the Occupy movement, and an incredibly talented artist. Even those who did not know Alex personally probably wore his artwork on bandanas, t-shirts and scarfs, saw his signs waved at protests. Alex worked tirelessly in OLA’s Printlab with his good friends Kat, Jesse and Eddie, and was a proud and much-loved member of Bike Scum. He leaves his spirit behind in a beautiful son, River, and Devon, the mother of his child. His OLA family will miss him greatly, and always strive to embody the uncompromising principles of our tireless comrade. Solidarity Forever, Alex.
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