Occupying LA

Hosted by

This is Kevin Roderick with LA Observed for KCRW.

It's been 30 days now since Occupy LA's protesters set up camp on the lawn of City Hall.

The protesters have no particular beef with the building's main occupants, the mayor and the city council. At least not yet.

But it is the only Civic Center edifice with a lawn around most of it.

And why not there: City Hall has served as the most visible symbol of Los Angeles since it opened in the 1920's, whether or not any power actually resides there.

Whatever the reason the core group chose City Hall, it has proven to be an inspired venue choice.

Everyone knows City Hall's granite tower, and the central symbolic location has helped raise the profile of Occupy LA beyond what its numbers or its messages would suggest.

The encampment has become something of a flavor of the month for many Los Angeles media people.

A cynic might suggest they now have something besides rescue dogs, food trucks and the environment to rally around. That's because there has been something of an celebration to some of the coverage.

The Occupy movement has certainly gotten more detailed coverage here than the tea party rallies ever did. And the tea parties at least managed to influence one of the major political parties.

News cameras and reporters love the color and rawness of the Occupy LA camp. The pictures and the personal stories are compelling.

And the camp has drawn from a socially diverse chunk of Los Angeles, even if the political spectrum is narrow and clumped toward the left side.

Times columnist Steve Lopez spent the requisite night on the ground with the protesters. He wrote that he came away convinced the campers are all talk and no action, more slumber party than movement.

Reporters from the Times and other media outlets have reported on the group's deliberations over agenda and process – what issues to pursue, how to run the camp, even who should make meals and what they should cook.

It's authentic and messy, not packaged like so much of the politics we normally get to see.

But is Occupy LA going to be much more than a media phenomenon?

That's a question that lots of people wonder, and it's especially pressing for the local politicians who invited in the occupiers.

The growing encampment of protesters and hangers on outside of City Hall poses a dilemma for Mayor Villaraigosa and the City Council.

When Occupy LA first arrived, it numbered not much more than a few dozen idealistic, mostly young people who identified with the Occupy Wall Street protests in lower Manhattan.

The New York action was getting mostly positive press, so it must have seemed safe and easy to embrace for LA's liberal elected officials.

Mayor Villaraigosa welcomed the first contingent of protesters with a smile and a supply of panchos.

City Council president Eric Garcetti led a delegation out to the sidewalk and assured the campers they could stay as long as they wanted.

But now they are concerned that Occupy LA may stay too long. The party atmosphere may switch to politics that actually get uncomfortable.

As a media show, now that will be worth watching.

For KCRW, this has been Kevin Roderick with LA Observed.