Occupy Los Angeles
So a couple weeks ago I got a two day assignment to cover Occupy Los Angeles for The Associated Press. The first day was the morning after LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa gave the order to shut down the park in front of City Hall at 12:01am. The LAPD gathered around the park and the protesters did a lot of yelling and chanting and the cops did nothing, it was almost like a dry run to see what the protesters were willing to do. Around 7am, rush hour time in Downtown Los Angeles, all the LAPD officers left in an orderly fashion and that was pretty much the last anyone at Occupy LA saw of them that day. So I photographed exhausted people sleeping and gathering for the rest of the day and then I went home.
Later that night I was getting bombarded with emails from AP LA photo desk and the LAPD and the about the upcoming raid. Most of the emails just said that the raid was going to happen and that we would be given an hours notice. The last email I got was from the LA Photo Director from AP asking if the raid happened if she could count on me as her pool photographer, which was a huge honor and one of the biggest assignments I’ve gotten to date. The LAPD decided to allow three pool photographers to go into the park with them. This wasn’t an ideal situation because we weren’t sure if they were doing this to keep tabs on us and in a way censor the information. We also were not there to be cheerleaders for the LAPD. The LAPD insisted on the pool system in an effort to keep us journalist safe. For the most part we were not restricted much, but there were a few instances where they would not allow us to get close enough to get a good photo or tell the story of a particular arrest.
I stayed up most of the night waiting to see if the call would come and it never did.
So, it’s now Tuesday and I spend most of the day running errands and getting things I would need for the raid if it happened. At the same time staying close to home and my camera gear in case the call came. At 7:30pm the call came from Tracy, “Bret it’s time”, she said. I was then sent to Dodgers stadium where the LAPD set up a staging area to check in the 1400 officers that would be taking part in the raid. It was pretty amazing to see that many officers in one place. After the officers were checked and briefed they got in Metro buses and were shipped downtown and All the pool journalists were escorted down to City Hall in a caravan by four LAPD officers because of road closures. When we arrived they had us park on the side walk next the the Los Angeles Times building. We were then briefed and waited patiently until the raid began.
Some of the Occupy LA supporters were chanting a standing their ground and others you could see were slowing leaving the park. Then it happened…at around midnight the LAPD announced over a loud speaker that the Park was closed and anyone that did not leave would be arrested. All the remaining protesters ran back into the park and waves of police officers followed. They ended up not letting the pool in until the park was secure and because of that we missed some good photos, but once we got in there were some great photos to be made. Below are some of my favorites from the two days.