September 25, 2018

Taken for a Multi-million Dollar Ride

Last week the Los Angeles City Council approved a “>resolution praising the demonstrators that had set up an encampment on the grounds of City Hall, as a “peaceful and vibrant exercise in First Amendment rights.” When the Council acted Occupy LA had been camping on City Hall for nearly two weeks, they remained for an additional six.

In the weeks of the occupation, as reported by the press, the sanitary conditions, the drug violations and the general demeanor of the “occupiers” deteriorated. Nevertheless, during that period the police and governmental officials went out of their way to accommodate the demonstrators and evidence concern about their well-being (some LAPD officers even delivered turkeys to them).

News “>reported that, “At some points, police seemed to be overly cautious. Officers moved slowly to make arrests when a group of two dozen activists sat down with arms linked on Figueroa Street…..a march organized in conjunction with Occupy LA.”

When LA officials’ patience wore thin after nearly two months of “occupation” Chief Beck urged demonstrators to heed the order to disperse when issued. He warned that those who chose to stay behind and be arrested ought to realize that it wouldn’t be like summer camp, an arrest is an arrest and can be unpleasant.

On November 30th, at midnight, the LAPD began to “>cleared, with nearly 300 arrests made.

Subsequently, a lawsuit was “>recommended that the city settle the case for $2,450,000.

The substance of the City Attorney’s argument to the Council was not made public; the case was discussed in “closed session.” One can imagine that the potential liability of the case, were it lost, was the most compelling argument for settling at this sizeable amount.

It’s hard to imagine, given the facts of the case, that a reasonable trier-of-fact would find that LAPD and the City could have been more accommodating than they were for 58 days of occupation and one night of resistance; civil disobedience is rarely pain free, those arrested should have expected a few hours of unpleasantness for violating the law. The trier-of-fact would likely have offset any recovery against the “>toxic trash Occupy LA left behind, to resod the lawn, to replace the damaged irrigation system, to restore the landscape to proper conditions and for the added costs of policing the site for 58 days.

If the City coffers are more than an ATM machine for plaintiffs with a cause, one would think that a staff of over five hundred attorneys in the City Attorney’s office might give the Occupy LA lawyers a run for their money and stand for some principles, even if there is some legal risk involved.

The sympathy that the Council expressed for the Occupy LA protestors in 2011 remains; it had a near unanimous vote for expending $2.45 million of taxpayer dollars to protestors for whom they had earlier expressed “support” and the people’s “solidarity.”

In the real world, away from the headlines and the public eye, there are countless cases of people who are genuinely injured by the City’s malfeasance and nonfeasance (whether in accidents, damaged sidewalks, or bureaucratic screw ups) who have to overcome procedural hurdles—from administrative hearings to lawsuits to appeals to mediation—before getting recompensed with a few thousand dollars for real medical and other expenses.

Occupy LA had it much easier, a few hours of inconvenience ended up in a windfall for the plaintiffs and their lawyers—they are laughing all the way to the bank. And the funds available to reimburse the genuinely aggrieved in our city will be less.

Chief Beck offered the protestors office space Downtown and space to grow food; they wisely didn’t accept that offer. Now they can probably purchase a building near Downtown, with a garden to boot; all of which we have bought them.