The Los Angeles City Council moved Wednesday to support a group of demonstrators camped on the lawn of City Hall as part of a nationwide series of demonstrations aimed at calling attention to the gap between rich and poor.
Seven of the 15 council members signed a resolution to support “peaceful and vibrant exercise in First Amendment Rights carried out by ‘Occupy Los Angeles.”’
Hundreds of demonstrators have been camping on or near Wall Street in New York City since Sept. 17. As many as 700 people have been arrested since then.
The Los Angeles resolution calls for a vote on a “responsible banking” measure by Oct. 28. It would require the city to divest from banks and financial institutions that have not cooperated with efforts to prevent foreclosures.
“This resolution supports the goals of Occupy L.A. and the need for responsible banking reform,” said valley-area City Councilman Richard Alarcon, who co-sponsored the motion with his Westside colleague Bill Rosendahl.
Alarcon sent a memo to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, asking him to issue an executive order preventing Occupy L.A. demonstrators from having to move their tents from the City Hall lawn to sidewalks at night. Protesters have been camping on the north side of City Hall since Saturday morning.
Police have been enforcing a city ordinance that prevents people from sleeping in city parks, including the lawn of City Hall, at night to move their tents from the lawn to the sidewalk around 10 p.m. and back to the lawn about 6 a.m.
Alarcon said the enforcement has pushed the campers within feet of a major road, “inadvertently contributing to a potential major public safety issue, should a vehicle swerve off the road.”
The mayor does not have the authority to change Los Angeles Municipal Code, even by executive order, Villaraigosa spokesman Peter Sanders said. The City Council is the city’s lawmaking body.
“The mayor does support Occupy L.A. and the right to peaceful assembly,” Sanders said, adding that Villaraigosa’s office provided the demonstrators with 100 ponchos this morning.
Dozens of demonstrators, drenched by an unseasonable downpour, took the demonstration inside Wednesday to address the council.
“My current address is 200 North Spring Street (City Hall),” Marlen Stern told the council. “I am a 2009 graduate of Cal State Northridge who can’t find a job. I’m 27 and at the mercy of my father’s L.A. County pension.”
Stern, a history major who wants to teach or do social work, said he joined Occupy L.A. to fight for “health care, jobs, and education and against the environmental degradation caused by rampant unchecked consumption.”
Councilman Dennis Zine, a former cop, thanked the protesters for being respectful and under control.
“It’s not a hostile environment as we see in Greece and other parts of the world,” Zine said. “Stay on the focus of what you’re doing. You’ve got our support … You’re out there in the rain, which is a miserable condition to live in.
Councilman Bill Rosendahl called Occupy L.A. democracy at its best.
”There was an Arab Spring. You’re seeing an American Autumn. And it’s connecting all over America,” Rosendahl said. “And if Washington can appreciate that, they’ll withdraw the troops from these crazy wars. They will make the rich pay their fair share and reinvest in education, health care, infrastructure and the American people.”
“So thank you for making the American democracy work today,” he added.
The full City Council is expected to vote on the resolution in support of Occupy L.A. on Tuesday.