LA FNB - End repression at Pershing Square! - Tom Louie offers

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Mon, 27 Dec 1999 16:43:29 -0800 (PST)


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FWD circa 26 Dec 1999
CC Replies to author "Tom Louie" <activism@pacbell.net>

Subject: End repression at Pershing Square!
To: peacecenter@egroups.com, Refuse & Resist! <RandRLA@aol.com>, LA-AMN
<la-amn@lists.tao.ca>

(paste)
"On Sunday, December 15, 1999 at 5PM, the Los Angeles chapter of Food Not
Bombs, a grassroots organization dedicated to fighting poverty, arrived in
Pershing Square as they have for the past two years to distribute free
food at their Sunday evening community meal. Upon arrival in the park, the
group was told by both the park manager and park rangers that the must
move from their prominent position in the north end of the park to the
less visible south end of the park. Because a prime objective of Food Not
Bombs' community meals is to raise consciousness and to counter Los
Angeles's "out of sight, out of mind" policy towards the poor, the group
deemed it unacceptable to be pushed to the back of the park and continued
to serve at their normal location. Subsequently Food Not Bombs organizer,
Dan DiPasquo, was arrested by the Pershing Square park rangers and the Los
Angeles Police Department."
(end paste)

    I heard about the arrest through the LA-AMN listserve. I went over
to Pershing Square this evening (Sunday 12/26/99) to offer my services
to FNB, or to at least bear witness to anything that might happen. What
I found when I got there, between 5:15 and 5:30, was a place absolutely
SWARMING with cops. You'd think there had been a riot or a shootout or
some kind of terrorist act. The cops had even parked at a bus stop, so
that people had to go out in the middle of the street to catch their
buses. Now, THAT has to be something that would inconvenience the
citizenry a lot more than the mere sight of someone serving free food!
The mere PRESENCE of all those armed thugs would be a lot more
intimidating to the yuppie ice-skaters than the presence of FNB could
ever be.
    Does anybody know what happened to the FNB volunteers? I know I got
there a little late, so I wonder if the cops had already "swept" them
all up by the time I arrived. That would mean it only took 15 minutes
for the armed thugs to get rid of them, and I think we, collectively
(the social-change activists in L.A.), ought to be costing the
powers-that-be a lot more than 15 minutes.
    We all need to rally in support of Food Not Bombs, with all our
organizations. I think the denial of public space is really a serious
offense against the people. No matter what cause we're working for, if
we the let the rich and powerful chase us out of public spaces, then we
may as well not have any rights at all. Free expression in public areas
is just basic and fundamental (and yes, I think the act of serving free
food qualifies as "symbolic speech," because it's a big slap in the face
of an uncaring establishment).
    I work for a pro-immigrant group called "La Resistencia," and we
have also had our First Amendment rights violated. Even though free
expression was not our original issue, we had to do a lot of publicity
and protesting for the authorities to recognize our right to leaflet on
the sidewalk outside the Downtown Federal Building. We even had a member
who was arrested three times for the right to leaflet. (He was denied a
jury trial, and the prosecutor got my testimony in his support stricken
from the record.)
    Eventually, we did get what we wanted: a declaration by the building
manager that we had free-speech rights on the sidewalk. But who's to say
that the Federal cops couldn't revoke that right at any time? We even
heard a Federal cop make this incredible, Kafkaesque statement: "If
people are too stupid to realize they have freedom of speech, then they
don't deserve freedom of speech." It seems that political activity in
public space is under constant attack, everywhere--just look at Seattle!

    So, I think the activist community needs to get involved in this in
a bigger way. I think, at a very minimum, there should be a noisy, yet
legal and peaceful demonstration on the sidewalk surrounding Pershing
Square. (Even if the park manager claims he can control what goes on
inside his park--oop, sorry, I mean the park he claims to operate on
behalf of the people--it will be a bigger jump for him to claim he can
restrict sidewalk activity.) If FNB calls for it, we should all turn out
our people for it.
    I think there are some strong possibilities for coalition work
here.  At a minimum, every organization that deals with poverty, or
hunger and homelessness, or police brutality and repression, or the
misplacement of budget priorities on war and prisons at the expense of
human needs, should help Food Not Bombs fight for the park if they ask
for it.
    Your thoughts, fellow activists?
    Tom Louie <activism@pacbell.net>

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