On the second day of November, two busloads of Occupy L.A. protesters arrived in La Cañada Flintridge. Their destination: Commonwealth Avenue. Their target: the home of “a Deutsche Bank executive,” a sheriff’s spokesperson told the Valley Sun.
At first, La Cañadans were confused. Why would Occupy L.A. come to La Cañada Flintridge?
It turned out that it wasn’t just any Deutsche Bank executive, but a true local celebrity, Brian Mulligan, who filed a $50-million claim against the city of Los Angeles alleging that in May, he was imprisoned in a motel room by the Los Angeles Police Department and then beaten. In October, someone released an audio tape where a man purporting to be Mulligan called the Glendale police, asking about a helicopter that he said was following him. The man admitted using bath salts at least 20 times. Bath salts are a group of designer drugs that resemble Epsom salts.
Public records show that Mulligan's residence is on Commonwealth Avenue. Here in La Cañada, the phrase “Brian Mulligan, a Deutsche Bank executive” is synonymous with the designer drug.
When folks heard that Occupy L.A. had come to Commonwealth Avenue, people thought, “Hey! Maybe Occupy L.A. is demonstrating about bath salts!”
Back on Foothill Boulevard, rumors began to swirl.
Was Occupy L.A. for or against bath salts? No one knew for sure.
Did Occupy L.A. have a position on bath salts? People searched the Internet to find out.
There is one reference online. The June 15 Occupy L.A. minutes ( occupylosangeles.org/minutes), record the following colloquy: “A Man: we talked about — it doesn't seem fair that they're selling all these bath salts…this guy…they're selling these things all over the place... ...[SKY: Just to clarify, they're not even bath salts they're selling them as bath salts]... ...and you don't need to organize to sell this stuff.”
You can read those minutes three times and glean nothing about Occupy L.A.’s position on bath salts. Are they for them? Against them? Mad about selling fake bath salts? It's totally unclear.
As the word spread about Occupy L.A. landing in front of Brian Mulligan's house, other theories began to emerge. Maybe the occupation wasn’t about bath salts. Maybe the demonstration concerned what some euphemistically call “those damn peafowl.”
Does Occupy L.A. have a position on the landlocked peacocks of La Cañada?
The fact that no one could figure out why Occupy L.A. had come to La Cañada is symptomatic of a generational shift.
Back in the 1960s, demonstrators avoided buses. The demonstrators would have passed out leaflets on Foothill Boulevard, invited locals to join them on Commonwealth Avenue, engaged in stimulating conversation with the passersby, and then marched to Commonwealth Avenue, with or without new recruits.
Times have changed.
Occupy L.A. does not want to do grass-roots organizing in La Cañada Flintridge. Hence the phrase “occupy.”
They are an invading force, insensitive to local political currents, with no interest in soliciting our support.
Occupy L.A. doesn’t care if you voted for Obama, use bath salts, or live in a small house. The point is that you live in La Cañada. You live in a house. For Occupy L.A., La Cañada Flintridge is the 1%.
Back on Commonwealth, after Occupy L.A. landed, sheriffs deputies were called in. There were scads of patrol cars.
Everyone hung out for a while. No arrests were made.
And then, most of the protesters got back on the buses and went over to the Century City offices of Deutsche Bank.
Over in Century City, there were six arrests.
We later learned that the gathering was to protest the “role of banks in foreclosing on properties in the wake of the real estate market meltdown.”
Duh! How come we didn't think of that?
There are two lessons from this venture.
First, it’s a lot easier to get arrested in Century City (or Highland Park) than here in La Cañada Flintridge.
Second, if the demonstration had been about bath salts, bears or peacocks, there might have been local support.
ANITA SUSAN BRENNER is a longtime La Cañada Flintridge resident and an attorney with Law Offices of Torres and Brenner in Pasadena. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @anitabrenner.