Occupy L.A. Gets a Reprieve, Poet Laureate Gets Clubbed

This morning’s 12:01 deadline for the Los Angeles Police Department to clear Occupy L.A. out of the City Hall area came and went, and the Occupiers are still camped out. 

Reason’s Paul Detrick was with the campers throughout the non-ordeal and will have a video up soon.

In recent weeks, relations have been fraying between Occupy L.A. and a police force that seems to be rapidly losing its reputation as America’s most brutal and corrupt.

This Reason.tv video shows some of the tensions during a recent march around Downtown L.A.: 


As part of the group on that shoot, I have to say that the cops pretty effectively managed the challenge of maintaining civil peace while allowing a group of protestors to march in public streets. There were some arrests, and a few instances where I didn’t appreciate the high-handed manner of the police, but at least on that day, the Occupiers had their march with a minimum of negative impact on local businesses or visitors (who in any event tend to be sparse in one of the least interesting downtowns in America).

This continues the generally positive feeling between the government and the government-loving Occupiers which I noted in a previous post, and which was the subject of another Reason.tv video:


In fact, I think the city of L.A. should be required to put up with the Occupiers indefinitely. Nobody forced the City Council to rush through a resolution in support of the Occupy Wall Street movement in October, and it’s not clear the Council was responding to any outcry from constituents. I don’t see any way the Council members and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa can square their apparent eagerness to end the Occupation now with their enthusiasm for the Occupation a month ago. They welcomed the unwashed, uninvited guests. Now let them live with that decision until City Hall’s last toilet overflows. 

Up in Berkeley, it’s a different story. Former Poet Laureate Robert Hass details how he got manhandled by Berkeley’s finest (now there’s a phrase I never expected to type) a while back: 

My wife bounced nimbly to her feet. I tripped and almost fell over her trying to help her up, and at that moment the deputies in the cordon surged forward and, using their clubs as battering rams, began to hammer at the bodies of the line of students. It was stunning to see. They swung hard into their chests and bellies. Particularly shocking to me — it must be a generational reaction — was that they assaulted both the young men and the young women with the same indiscriminate force. If the students turned away, they pounded their ribs. If they turned further away to escape, they hit them on their spines.

NONE of the police officers invited us to disperse or gave any warning. We couldn’t have dispersed if we’d wanted to because the crowd behind us was pushing forward to see what was going on. The descriptor for what I tried to do is “remonstrate.” I screamed at the deputy who had knocked down my wife, “You just knocked down my wife, for Christ’s sake!” A couple of students had pushed forward in the excitement and the deputies grabbed them, pulled them to the ground and cudgeled them, raising the clubs above their heads and swinging. The line surged. I got whacked hard in the ribs twice and once across the forearm. Some of the deputies used their truncheons as bars and seemed to be trying to use minimum force to get people to move. And then, suddenly, they stopped, on some signal, and reformed their line. Apparently a group of deputies had beaten their way to the Occupy tents and taken them down. They stood, again immobile, clubs held across their chests, eyes carefully meeting no one’s eyes, faces impassive. I imagined that their adrenaline was surging as much as mine.

My ribs didn’t hurt very badly until the next day and then it hurt to laugh, so I skipped the gym for a couple of mornings, and I was a little disappointed that the bruises weren’t slightly more dramatic. It argued either for a kind of restraint or a kind of low cunning in the training of the police. They had hit me hard enough so that I was sore for days, but not hard enough to leave much of a mark. 

I can’t say much for the inventiveness of Hass’ imagery. Alameda County Sheriff’s deputies are described as wearing “Darth Vader armor,” and a row of balloons is described as “almost lyrical” – a term that always sounds fancily meaningless when used to describe physical objects. Nor is there much to get excited about in Hass' political diagnoses. (It turns out Reaganomics is to blame.) But I may be too harsh because I’m skeptical of the poet laureate position, which turns a writer into a servant of the state without giving him any actual poetic authority:

[T]he United States doesn’t do enough for its national poet. Although the seat has been around since 1937, our instinctively anti-feudal nation resisted the vaguely Dantean title “poet laureate” in favor of “consultant in poetry.” In 1986 the post was redubbed “poet laureate consultant in poetry to the Library of Congress”—a title leaden enough to kill the lyrical spirit in every breast.

By any name, the U.S. poet laureate doesn’t get much scratch. The compensation package of $35,000 in salary and $5,000 in travel expenses is not funded by taxpayer money. It comes out of a trust fund established in 1936 by the rail and shipping heir Archer M. Huntington. Huntington’s original donation of $250,000 in stock has grown at a decent but unspectacular rate: As of 2008 the Huntington Fund, managed by the Bank of New York, was worth $4.6 million. (If you’d like to throw in a few shekels yourself, go to the “Support the Library” link at loc.gov.) Yet the laureate’s salary hasn’t even kept pace with inflation. The first consultant, Joseph Auslander, made $3,000. That should come to $45,000 in 2009 bucks.

Everything’s like that for the American poet laureate. The British laureate gets a “butt of sack” (about 600 bottles of sherry) and is called upon to compose verse for national occasions. (Former laureate Andrew Motion whipped up poems for Queen Elizabeth’s 80th birthday and the late Queen Mum’s 100th.) The U.S. poet laureate’s job, as described by the Library of Congress, is to serve as a “lightning rod for the poetic impulse of Americans,” which sounds dangerously close to having to read unsolicited manuscripts. The laureate’s only duty is to give one lecture, during which the Huntington Fund pays for what a Library of Congress spokeswoman calls a “small, cheese-and-crackers reception.”

This Quaker leveling instinct applies to tenure as well. In the U.K., laureates hold office for 10 years; they used to hold it for life. The United States, fearful that a poet laureate might amass too much power, term-limits its laureates after only one year.

No doubt in a country where the poet laureate had some teeth, Hass could have sent the cops packing through the sheer power of poetry.

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  • Eduard van Haalen||

    There once was a man from nantucket
    Who wrote silly political commentary
    And got appointed Poet Laureate.

  • Jerry||

    There once was a Poet Laureate
    Who got clubbed in the chest
    Only to be dispensed
    With lines from the Reason End.

  • Da Judge||

    My brain is bleeding. No more!

  • Vogon||

    Even I think it's awful.

  • Laureate Mark||

    I read the article
    Barney Frank retires
    It is morning in Nepal
    Get a hobby?
    Blue horseshoe loves Andicott Steel
    There is saucer in my attic
    L'adace! L'adace!
    Pater poetae

  • Policeman Laureate||

    My baton makes rhythm like a drum-circle
    As I clear the streets of hippies
    Occupying their ribs with my truncheon
    And occupying their eyes with pepper spray
    My pants expanding
    From the excitement

  • ||

    The report of my ass-beating was an exaggeration.

    Oh, and Urban Meyer, bitches!!!

  • Name Nomad||

    I got all excited to drop that same obvious joke on this thread... then I see you beat me by ten minutes. Sexually intercourse you!

  • Almanian||

    Urban's arrival doubles the count of natural, adult teeth among the population in Columbus.

  • Beloved Rev. Blue Moon||

    That has to be one of the most inapt jokes I have seen in awhile. There are lots of criticisms of Columbus that are funny, but the teeth thang ain't it (neither true nor funny).

  • The Love Song of Antonio V.||

    Let us go then, you and I
    Noble Occupy LA, I praise you to the sky
    But now let us go
    Or, at least you go
    And I'll come by later
    But for now, just go

  • Almanian, Poet Lori Ate||

    Nightstick on the ribs
    Nightstick on the spine
    Nightstick on the solar plexus


  • Maya Angelou||

    Damn. Wish I'd penned that.

  • ||

    I love reading the poetry in the New Yorker. They're short so that helps.

    I enjoy wise-ass spoofery of poetry just as much....

  • Paul||

    Someone educated in all things letters tell me why we have a national poet laureate?

  • ||

    We're a big country - we ain't no Singapore.

  • juris imprudent||

    But sadly we are instinctively anti-feudal, which means the poet laureate does not entertain the Court and feast in style.

  • ||

    I'm not expecting to grow flowers in a desert,
    But I can live and breathe and see the sun in winter time!

  • Chatroom Crank||

    The same reason we have a surgeon general, a drug czar, and a "Chief of Staff for the First Lady".

  • ||

    I didn't vote for him.

  • Paul||

    In recent weeks, relations have been fraying between Occupy L.A. and a police force that seems to be rapidly losing its reputation as America’s most brutal and corrupt.

    But aren't the Occutards mostly white kids?

  • LA Peed D||

    Nothing is more satisfying than giving your own punk ass kid, mal-raised by your ex- into an entitled dingbat, a good, sound beating.

  • Paul||

    I don’t see any way the Council members and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa can square their apparent eagerness to end the Occupation now with their enthusiasm for the Occupation a month ago.

    Tony V. can claim a high-speed train is going to be built where the Occupier's are camped.

    My understanding is Occupiers are bullish on Eminent Domain, bearish on free enterprise.

  • Paul||

    Particularly shocking to me — it must be a generational reaction — was that they assaulted both the young men and the young women with the same indiscriminate force.

    The New Professionalism requires they treat everyone equally...

    Ok I'll stop now.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Nonviolent wombyn protesters being brutally beaten by cops is a feminist victory if I've ever seen one.

  • chris||

    Complexion and hair type are bigger determinants in how well a person is likely to take a beating than gender. Red Heads, for one, have less tolerance for pain, on average.

  • beater||

    STFU you damn soulless ginger.

  • chris||

    Hmm, I wonder what this meeting at the South Park Marriott I've been invited to is about. Think I'll check it out.

  • jtuf||

    The quality of police varies greatly from municipality to municipality, which is why freedom of migration is so important.

  • ||

    That's why they call it a poetry slam, Bob.

  • Paul||


  • Almanian, Poet Lori Ate||

    Also, is them clubbin' poets gonna hang with the clubbin' seals? Cause I heard the seals were clubbin', too.

    We all clubbin' now...mmm mmm mmm...

  • Pants on Fire||

    the seals are clubbin',
    the clubs are sealin',
    to keep the Occupy out

  • ||

  • ||

    A lot of the northern "occupations" are dwindling now due to the weather, but now that the precedent has been set that it's OK for leftists to camp out in city parks for months at a time, we can expect this to be a yearly event as long as the private sector continues to exist. Zucotti will be full again in April, bank on it.

  • mad libertarian guy||

    You're assuming that they can keep both interest and organization that long.

  • PantsFan||

    FYI, The first video is covering the paragraph that starts with "As part of the group on that shoot," on my browser.

  • insensitive monster||

    McKAY: I'm not gonna debate this with you, Inspector. I've been on the phone with the mayor twice this morning. He went right through the ceiling over this.

    CALLAHAN: Did you tell him about the meeting?

    McKAY: What meeting?

    CALLAHAN: The meeting right here in your office two days ago when you said high priority was to run the Occutards out of Los Angeles.

    McKAY: I never said to use violence!

    CALLAHAN: Well what'd you want me to do? Yell "Trick or treat" at them?

  • ||

    Save our tropes!

  • Buddy Bizarre||

    OT: I just heard Anthony Bourdain refer to himself as a libertarian. It seems as if he's been moving that way over the years, but I'm not convinced he's quite there yet.

  • PantsFan||

    He also claims to be a Democrat.

  • mad libertarian guy||

    And he's also seen what socialism does to a country first-hand. See his "Nicaragua" episode where he seems to come to some conclusions based on his experience there.

    I don't think he's necessarily a libertarian, but he may not be too far from a cosmo.

  • LuLu Rockwell||

    He can't be a libertarian. Because he opposes bans on smoking and foie gras?

    He's a libertine- he took pictures of his hot tanned naked body, with his glistening cock and supple buttocks exposed to a doughy-assed male companion.

    Let me know when he clubs some Negro ne'erdowells with his meat cleaver.

  • ||

    I've heard him say a lot of lefty statist stuff, but perhaps he's evolving in his old age.

  • chris||

    Obama Lied Girl is pretty hot for a fatty.

  • chris||

    Get some tone in those arms, reduction on that all too ample bosom, boost her testosterone, get her in a jersey, she'd be close to ideal.

    Oh, come on. You guys let rectal and tony bait you with much less.

  • ||

    For the record - Robert Hass is a sweetheart and generally one of the least club-worthy people I've ever met.

  • harsh||

    pussy poet doesn't even bruise properly

  • LuLu Rockwell||

    Just like you Beltway libertines, worrying about dirty hippies receiving some good old-fashioned street justice.

    Meanwhile, you have managed to export baggy pants and sex ( OMG ...SEX!) to Iraqi youths. They are even refusing to wear school uniforms. Everyone knows the most normal Libertarians are white middle class families with obedient children in uniforms.

    Are you happy with yourselves now?

    Tommy D has the story:

    Tommy D's on the backup. Drug free. So put the crack up.

  • Jon Gruden||

    I love this guy!

  • chris||

    That was crazy. I could not believe it when I came across that the other day. Someone over there was really blaming 'Cosmotarians' for the social influence of grunt culture on Iraqis youth. Sorry, dude, but you can count on one hand the major beltway libertarians who supported that war. How fucking stupid. Try to keep in mind the good sane folks at the Mises Inst. for one, that are unfortunately associated with you before you write stupid shit like that, lew correspondent.

  • ||

    Nice dodge with the "major" qualifier. There aren't 5 major beltway libertarians to begin with.

  • chris||

    I was hoping not to get called on that one.

  • chris||

    When your personalities successfully collude to off the sickness that is you, would you mind leaving a dead man switch tweet to let me know?

  • LuLu Rockwell||

    Just like a cosmosexual.

  • Live Free or Diet||

    Occupy Richmond stayed in Kanawha Plaza free for two weeks. Richmond Tea Party delivered an invoice to Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones for costs incurred for previous rallies there. Richmond responds by auditing the Tea Party.

  • ||

    Good luck getting Reason to cover this. They seem fascinated with Occupy now.

    Can't blame them, as Occupy sympathy gets you into better parties.

  • Matt Damon||

    Screw poets! What the world needs is Actors!

  • Hodor||


  • The Borg||

    2:27 in 2nd vid,

    It's the individual. It's the collective.

    We, the Borg, approve.

  • *||

    not the individual


  • Occupy||

    Rise early at 10, Latte' up,
    a new day of protest begins,
    to the park, to the park!

    Mommm! Where's my iPhone?!?!

  • ||

    There once was a poet laureate
    who obeyed the cops but too late
    he got a big clubbing
    a right ol' big drubbing
    and sold his whole story to Slate

  • BoscoH||

    Advice for the poet laureate, in Haiku

    put the violence
    to poetry young homeboy
    get a record deal.

  • Some Guy||

    So, the cops have pepper spray.. What could the protestors use to make their body armor as uncomfortable as possible? Anyone know a good recipe for itching powder?


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