When Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and the Los Angeles City Council last week reversed their previous support for Occupy L.A. and sent riot police to destroy the Flea Party’s downtown encampment, they also provided the Occupiers with a lesson in how private property gets treated in government hands.
As our coverage demonstrated, the Occupiers built a fairly impressive town complete with a free circulating library.
All of this was destroyed when the city – a little more than a month after adopting a resolution in support of the local and national Occupy movement – violently expelled the protesters.
Property that Occupiers were forced to abandon during the unscheduled police raid was not even treated with the respect of escheated property, which the state at least makes an effort to dispose of or monetize.
Instead, the cops simply destroyed the Occupation’s possessions:
"When the people were advised to leave, they were advised to take their property with them. If they don’t take their property, it’s booked as found property," said Tenesha Dobine, a public information officer with the LAPD. "The tents and stuff: that might be considered abandoned property."
Dobine said that anyone who was able to identify property as theirs during the arrests was given a receipt for that property and would be able to reclaim it.
Most of it, however, was simply left behind in the rush of the operation.
"Just like if you went camping and you drove away from your campsite and didn’t come back, you’d expect someone else would take it or it would get thrown away," Dobine said.
That’s a police officer claiming that the theft of unguarded property should be considered a normal function of civil society.
The city argues that what Villaraigosa called a "measured" response left a toxic area unworthy of trash/treasure discrimination. But as this AP story shows, nobody with a claim to the contrary was allowed to make the case for saving any of the stuff:
"It's so contaminated, it doesn't even make sense to sort it out," said Jose "Pepe" Garcia, 49, superintendent of the city's north central sanitation district.
A dozen city sanitation workers were suited up in white coveralls, gloves and boots after reports that there might be a lice or flea infestation, Garcia said.
Sanitation workers had been hauling away as much as 2 tons of trash a day from the site, but hygiene remained a problem despite rows of portable toilets, he said. Plastic gallon bottles of urine and smaller bottles were set aside for special disposal.
"They had no means to wash up. They had no means to shower," Garcia said. "You've got bottles of urine, that's the biggest hazard in there."
Crews have cleaned up homeless encampments with similar issues before but never on the scale of the Occupy LA bivouac.
"I've never seen anything like this," said Elton Atkins, a city refuse collection supervisor.
"Pretty disgusting," said Pamela Thompson, a legal analyst who works nearby and saw the camp almost daily.
"This should have been taken care of a long time ago," she said.
However, one former occupant blamed the police raid for trashing the tent city.
Samantha Schrepel, 27, stood by a stroller containing her 5-month-old son, Kenny, on the sidewalk in front of the fenced-off lawn and chatted with police officers guarding the site.
Schrepel had been staying in the tent city but was elsewhere when it was raided. Her tent, warm blankets and other items were being trashed as she watched.
“Elsewhere when it was raided”? Schrepel should have known that if you leave your stuff like that, it’s legal to steal it. The police can explain how that works.
In a fitting end for a movement based on the idea that all real property and legitimate contractual debt can be virtualized, the Occupy L.A. Library's Facebook page outlives the actual library.
Paul Detrick was on the ground when the cops kicked the campers out: