The Occidental Weekly
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 in protest.
“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 Oct. 24.
“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.”
"Occidental Students Arrested"
The Occidental Weekly
October 5, 2012