Author: Clark Scally|Lucy Feickert
Two Occidental students and two alumni were arrested during a sit-in at the Bank of America skyscraper in downtown L.A. on Friday, Sept. 28. Four other protesters not affiliated with the college were also arrested. The sit-in was staged by college students representing 99Rise, a grassroots, anti-corruption organization. The sit-in was protesting the use of big money in elections, claiming that those banks lead to corruption in politics. Participants delivered a petition to the bank management demanding all secret campaign donations be disclosed to the American public. Bank of America refused to disclose their candidate cash contributions, and the 99Rise protesters refused to leave.
“We expect we may be arrested, which will show these banks have something to hide,” Jordan Greenslade (sophomore) said prior to the protest.
The protest last Friday started around 4 p.m. with a group of about 20 demonstrators. The demonstrators were primarily college students from L.A. schools, including Occidental, Pomona College, UCLA, USC and Loyola Marymount University. The group rallied together
in Pershing Square before splitting up to walk the three or four blocks to the Bank
of America tower, to avoid drawing attention to themselves. The protest grew to over 50
members, taking place both outside the bank’s doors and
throughout the lower halls of the skyscraper. A lawyer from the National Lawyers Guild was present to help facilitate the demonstration and advise those arrested.
The bank’s security and Los Angeles Police Department responded quickly to
the demonstration, closing off the entrances to the building to anyone
without a key card. They set up a barricade along the top of the front
steps that was enforced by a row of police officers. There was also a
row of police cars down the middle of the street in front of the bank,
though it did not block traffic.
Alumni Dimitri Groce and Lewis Preston delivered the petition, and police officers arrested them for
refusal to then vacate the premises. Two current Occidental students, sociology major Mariko Dodson (junior) and Chris
Weeks (first-year), were also arrested. During the sit-in, Dodson and Weeks made their way up to the main doors of the bank. When
L.A.P.D. and private security guards denied them entrance, the two
students sat down outside the doors with dollar bills over their mouths
“We were arrested around 6 p.m., and they took us inside the
lobby and read us our Miranda Rights. I spent about seven hours in a
holding cell that looked like a slaughterhouse. I got released at 1 a.m.
on Saturday morning.” Dodson said. Metropolitan Detention center processed all the protesters who are facing charges of misdemeanor
trespassing. Dodson was released on a $500 bail and given a court date on
“During the training, those who were more experienced with
this type of civil disobedience told us these kinds of charges usually
get dropped to just an infraction,” she said.
Sociology and Media Arts double major Emma Gerch elaborated on the motivations behind the protest. “Today, Sept. 28, is 99Rise’s first
step in a campaign of mass civil disobedience. So this is the catalyst,
you know, this is our first step,” Gerch said. Gerch has
been working with 99Rise for over a year. She cites the 2010 Supreme
Court ruling on the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission,
which removed restrictions on campaign donations and disclosures, as the
source of her frustration with the current political system. “Big
corporations and financial institutions donate millions of dollars
anonymously to political candidates, basically buying our elections so
it’s like one person one vote, more like one dollar one vote, which is
bull-crap, because the government should work with us, the people and
not the corporate sponsorship,” Gerch said.
The 99Rise website cites similar motivations for their nationwide efforts. “America
is in crisis, and our democracy is on the auction block,” a quote from the website said. “We’re here to
do something about it. 99Rise is a new nationwide movement waging
nonviolent struggle to break the stranglehold of Big Money on American
politics and reclaim our democracy for the 99 percent.”
The student and community organizers made careful preparation weeks in advance of the sit-in. On the weekend of Sept. 15, 99Rise held an intensive training workshop teaching community organizing skills and strictly non-violent conduct. College students, alumni and other L.A. locals spent many hours exploring interpersonal narratives to strengthen communal bonds and organizing skills. They trained for real world settings of effectively explaining oneself and one’s goals to crowds of strangers.
One of the founding members of 99Rise, Hampshire College graduate Kai Newkirk, communicated the goals of the movement in an interview during the training workshop on Sept. 15.
“As for our opponents, I would say we are more
opposed to institutions than individuals, it’s both, but we’re not trying to
single out nor hurt any individual. The institutions are more critical and
harder to change,” Newkirk said in an interview during the training weekend. “And we’re not out trying to attack the 1 percent. We’re trying to
help everybody out there. We are motivated by love. By love of our country and
of each other.”
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