4 of 5 essays on the eviction: The Demonization of Mario

A week ago I published a series of essays to the Occupy Los Angeles list serv about our eviction from the Los Angeles city Hall Park on November 30th. They evoked a lively discussion on the list. My plan is to use this material in a larger piece designed for a more distant readership. However with the holidays fast approaching and the press of other matters, it is not clear when that piece will get done and I have been convinced that there is some value in publishing them here now in this more raw form.

Hopefully my earlier reporting here about Occupy LA as well as material from OccupyLosAngeles.org, OccupyLA.org, LosAngelesGA.net and @OccupyLA can provide enough context.

So I will publish them here as I did to the list serv, one a day for the next five days:
Monday: Did 1st Amendment protect OLA encampment @ City Hall Park?
Tuesday: Was DHS behind the eviction of Occupy LA?
Wednesday: What's the real reason Villaraigosa kicked us out?
Thursday: The Demonization of Mario
Friday: How Occupy LA got itself evicted

It doesn't matter that much who negotiates what, as long as they're not authorized to make any decisions. Whatever they come up with would have to be presented to and voted on by the GA.
- comment in DailyKos by Pilkington on Tue Nov 22, 2011 about "transparency" question at Occupy LA

If we take a look at the Statement from DeColonize LA, published on the website UnPermittedLA, and we cut away the wood, as I have done below, It is clear that the concept of Occupy Los Angeles as a movement with its focus on the fight against Wall St. has been under siege from day one by an organized faction that has sought to shift its focus to the fight against the LAPD.

While the original leadership of Occupy Los Angeles had the strategic approach of taking the fight directly to the banks and the capitalists, and avoiding struggles with the city and the police whenever they didn't hinder our main work, these self-proclaimed radicals reasoned that the police are the hired thugs of the capitalists, so rather than avoid the thugs as much as possible in our non-violent struggle against capitalism, they seek to take the fight first and foremost to the hired thugs. Wall St. would like nothing better than for this movement to be taken in the direction these people have been taking it.

But on to the statement. In the first paragraph, this group of activists "with previous working relationships as organizers" indicate they haven't been involved with Occupy LA before October 1st, not only because they refer to that as "the first day", but because it took them a while realized that there was already some organization and some leadership in place.

Our first impression was that the “occupation” resembled a carnival and that it was disorganized. What we eventually realized, however, was that the “occupation” was, in fact, very carefully organized, but for objectives we did not anticipate.

I don't know what they anticipated based on Occupy Wall St. but from the beginning the objectives of this movement were different from what they wanted and they have sought to change it by organizing a faction for their cause.

On the first day, we convened discussion circles which dozens of people gradually joined. We called for these circles because we felt we needed to hear from each other, as attendees of the Occupation, prior to the General Assembly.

They had a problem with the people who had put together Occupy Los Angeles from the very beginning and in spite of good relations between the city and the encampment and the lack of any abuse or harassment of Occupy LA at that time by the LAPD they formed "End Police Brutality at Occupy LA" as a closed facebook group with a very public web page. When I used a screenshot of this public page in a flier, they said of me:

If this individual isn’t actively working for the police, he has definitely helped them through his actions.

However, apparently it is not a problem that their names and pictures continue to be publicly listed on their webpage months later.

They did just about everything they could to make sure the General Assembly spent a lot of time discussing what they thought the movement should be about.

During the General Assemblies on the first and second day of occupation, we witnessed fundamental breakdowns in the consensus process, resulting in undemocratic decision-making. This was complemented by deception, coercion, and fear-mongering by the leadership to get their way. We were troubled by actions of those in leadership positions and/or facilitators of various committees who sought to control the direction of the occupation through non-democratic decision-making regarding the relationship with the Los Angeles Police Department. Any discussions or proposals at the GA criticizing or objecting to collaboration with the police are immediately shouted down by the leadership.

From day one, this is a faction that has been opposed to any discussions or cooperation with the city or the police, no matter how transparent, as they consider anything like that "collaboration." They opposed any talks with the police, any cooperation with the city. They opposed getting permits for events or equipment and they believed in "taking the streets" from the drivers, even when our numbers are small and no pre-planning for the traffic disruption was possible because of our lack of notice.

They considered that the original organizers of Occupy Los Angeles, that represented a decidedly different approach, collaborators and police agents, in short, the enemy. According to them, the city liaison team is acting without General Assembly approval because it was designed to be temporary:

Mario kept bleating that he'd been "elected". No one's been "elected" to anything. He knows, as well as anyone, that a city liaison was tried in the planning stages before the encampment ever happened and was meant to be temporary.

Memo
From: Councilmember Richard Alarcon
To: Hon. Carmen Trutanich, City Attorney
Chief Charlie Beck, Los Angeles Police Department
Tony Royster, General Manager, General Services Department
CC: Mario Brito, "Occupy Los Angeles"
Date: Friday, September 30th, 2011
Re: Providing Occupy LA Event - Tomorrow Saturday, Oct. 1st at City Hall- with
Reasonable Accommodations to Peacefully Exercise 1st Amendment Rights
...
I'm writing to urge you to provide a reasonable accommodation to "Occupy Los Angeles" in order to both protect the City's interests and to allow this group to peacefully exercise it's First Amendment rights.
>
It will benefit neither the City nor "Occupy Los Angeles" if peaceful protesters are arrested at or near City Hall tomorrow night...It would be unwise for our City to be overly aggressive and change the story from what it is--a protest against financial institutions--into a story about the City being inhospitable to peaceful demonstrations of civil rights.
...
I recommend that "Occupy Los Angeles" demonstrators be allowed to sleep near City Hall tomorrow night...

CC: Mario Brito, "Occupy Los Angeles"Ten years ago he was organizing meat packing employees in Ventura County. More recently he is a Lincoln Heights Neighborhood Council member and endorsed the call of Latinos for Peace. Early on he got involved in building Occupy Los Angeles and it became the focus of his work. After the encampment began he slept there almost every night.

The demonization campaign against Mario first came to the notice of many with this posting by Nevada on Thu, 10/20/2011 - 11:57am to OccupyLosAngeles.org

Mario Brito: Union Rep.? Communist?? Occupy City Liaison???

Mario Brito: Labor Relations Rep., Community Outreach organizer for the Laborers Union, Communist Party supporter and Occupy Los Angeles City Liaison??? We must have these questions answered

Kylene W. remembers still having faith in Mario at that time in one recent posts [Dec 4, 2011 at 12:30 PM]:

I remember the first two weeks of the encampment, there was a woman named Nevada. She kept trying to warn everyone about Mario. We were so new and weren't ready to hear it.

I've also been the one who, since day one, has advocated coming down on Mario like a ton of bricks.
and in the same posts reveals that she has been keeping him off the live stream:

Just so that you know we are on the same page, Craig. I blocked Mario over two weeks ago for a reason. I actually think he's quite dangerous.

Your "free speech rights" within Occupy LA can be very shaky, as I myself have learned. Craig T. responds [12/04/2011 04:29 PM] that he also opposed Mario from the very beginning:

Furthermore, I knew Mario's past experience just by looking at him, studying his mannerisms, and listening to him within the first day of the actual occupation.

And these are the people concerned about "transparency."

After the Nevada post, attacking Mario became an undercurrent in how certain people dealt with Occupy Los Angeles, whether it be on committees, in the General Assembly or on the email list. Take a look at selections from one day's traffic on the Occupy LA list serv and see the high idealogical level at which this struggle played out.

November 17th was our biggest day of action so far. It began with a march with SEIU and Good Jobs LA in which 23 protesters were arrested for an act of civil disobedience that blocked Figueroa Ave. and ended with the occupation of the Bank of America Plaza on Flower and 3rd at which 42 occupiers, including myself were arrested.

By then the campaign to demonize Mario Brito was in full swing and those involved weren't going to let the fact that so many of our people were in jail stand in the way of it, as this sampling shows. This discussion was sparked because Chief Beck had been quoted in the L.A. Daily News as saying that the occupiers will likely move. This was false information but that didn't stop some people from assuming that the real source was Mario Brito and the city liaison group. On Nov 16, 2011, at 9:00 PM, Anthony C. wrote:

If this is true it is the most nefarious betrayal of our movement I've yet read about it. REAL REVOLUTIONARIES ORGANIZE YOURSELF AGAINST THESE UNILATERAL ATTEMPTS TO NEGOTIATE WITH POLICE!

Notice how he asks is it true?, offers no proof, then assumes its true all in one breath? Early on November 17th at 12:26 AM, Kylene W. wrote:

What's the deal with that? Why do they think it's okay to go behind everyone's back like that? Who are they? So many questions! I don't like this at all.

At 1:06 AM Jon M. wrote

I think that it's the ultimate in political naivete (not to mention stupid) to assume that things are what has been claimed up to this point, including tonight, INADEQUATELY represented by those who claim they have been in contact, liason and/or negotiating with the city and the LAPD.

Later that morning, as Occupy LA and SEIU protesters were marching from Figueroa back to city hall at 10:36 AM, pj d. wrote:

We take action at Occupy LA if the GA approves and not a minute sooner. We exit City Hall if the GA approves and not a minute sooner. If someone thinks they speak for the GA without asking the GA and reporting back to the GA, then they are wasting their time and the LAPDs. Why do we bother worrying about this subject... someone speaking without GA authority is simply a person talking out of their ass and offering their own opinions. That person does not determine our future- the GA does and the LAPD knows that fact too. City Hall & LAPD play dumb to press. They know the GA is the voice of Occupy LA.

two minutes later Kylene W. was calling for members of the city liaison team to be expelled:

I still think all those that participated in talks with the LAPD and the City, claiming to represent us, should be asked to leave the movement.

Strong words. I was staring down troops with fixed bayonets on the steps of the Pentagon in 1967, which is another way of saying I've been in the movement for a hell of a long time, and Kylene thinks I should be asked to leave? At 10:52 AM, Javier R. supports expulsion and wants the call for expulsions to be published tomorrow as part of a more general response to Chief Beck:

At this moment the expulsion of the individuals is secondary, the imperative public media response to Beck is primary. Please don't get sidetracked, and you could include this highly strong sentiment of expulsion of the back door negotiators on the statement/letter which if submitted now, even as an individual OLA member, will be published tomorrow.

While these people were griping online, others were out in the streets protesting the banks and Wall St., many through acts of civil disobedience. Mario Brito was with us on the Bank of America Plaza, helping to co-ordinate the protest. He got his shoulder knocked out of joint by a cop. That evening he was at the jail, trying to get me and others out. At 10:42 PM, he posted this to the list:

We are in the process of bailing people out. We need help.

Meanwhile, others were still busy sending their hate mail. Ten minutes later Stephen A. responded:

Snitch and fake-tivist. All the bailouts in the world will not clean your soul.

And Ruth F. added:

Let's do a prisoner swap. One Mario brito for 42 occupiers.

Which caused Heidi S. to write:

Dear friends,
While we are in the midst of actions and trying to work together can we please refrain from personal attacks, vitriol, and name-calling? How are you moving the movement forward with that language? Let's focus on our comrades in jail, please, and how best to support them.

Leslie R. asked some important questions:

What do you need? Can you be specific? How many people? Cash/credit cards, transportation, phone calls, bail bondsmen, coffee?

And Mario responded:

We have about 30 people $100 each for bail.

At 10:55 Bethania P.M. also complained about the vitriol on the list:

Hey, can we let these people get bailed out? If I had chosen to get arrested tonight I wouldn't want to be spending the night and coming days in jail. Let's keep this focused on getting our friends home.

To which Stephen A. responded:

Sorry not snitch. Collaborator.

Which cause Butt R. to write at 11:02 PM:

This list is filled with children

Then 8 minutes later she added:

And if you don't care about bailing people out if Mario is associated with, then go to where they are held, find out what needs to happen, then organize it yourself. Unless you have to wait until the next GA Friday night before doing anything.

Which prompted Anthony C. to chime in @ 11:18 PM:

Yeah do everything yourself. Screw democracy. Screw GA.

I agree we shouldnt call names (twat, asshole, I've heard it all on this list). But snitch isn't name calling. It's sociology. It's like saying calling someone who steals a thief is name calling. Its just the truth.

Meanwhile Mario was stilled focused on getting folks out of jail. At 11:23 PM, he wrote:

We are here at the jail. And we believe we got most of the women out. we are working on getting folks out. So if you can come to the jail and bring bail. Temple and Los Angeles Ave.

Five minutes later Diana V. tried to show Anthony the error of his ways:

Anthony,
A snitch is a person who tells on someone. Mario meets with people you consider the other side but you don't know that he told on anyone. Please give the snitch thing a rest. It's important for everyone to keep our organization focused on facts not rumors.

At 11:33 PM, Laurel S. summed up the situation this way:
T

his what I do know : Mario is at the jail. None of us is and we all watched it go down.

Did you not see how MSM swept 30000 under the rug and off air? Mario is not the enemy! I am not the enemy. Cheryl is not the enemy! Anthony is not the enemy! THE 1% ARE THE ENEMY!

get it fucking straight

Is there anyway to make a PayPal or credit pymt to jail?

At 12:59 AM, Cheryl A. responded to another "where's Mario?"Mario has been up since early this morning. He went on the first protest. He went on the 2nd protest. He went to go help people in jail.

After a 19-hour day, I am going to guess that his phone is probably dead or dying and he's probably in a lot of pain because his shoulder was disconnected today during a fall after a cop pushed him. I am going to guess he's laying down now.
Also from the list serv:

"consistent, sustained, secretive, exploitative, solidarity-jeopardizing behavior.""willful disregard for collectivism", Mario isn't a "member of the General Assembly", "his snake like qualities", "no comparison in level of treachery""fuck you Mario, you fetid piece of human waste"

When the hue and cry went up about "transparency""mis-representation"Associated Press as "spokeswoman for the Committee to End Police Brutality at Occupy LA", or a mid-night protest led by the Committee to End Police Brutality at Occupy LA that was very heavy in ANSWER and PSL signs [YouTube], It was about some rumored deal that Mario and the city liaison team were cooking up in secret meetings, deals that in any case would require GA approval to be implemented.

When the fraction that had wanted to make this much more about police brutality from day one, and had been opposed to Mario and much of the original leadership from day one found that the charge of a "lack of transparency" and "secret deals" with city hall had traction it became a full court press. And they pressed it to the point that the people from Occupy LA that had been talking to the city were disavowed, new people oppose to the discussions were brought in and the city was told to come to the GA if they wanted to talk to us. The effect on the mayor was to conclude that discussions with Occupy LA were futile, our group could not make decisions and stand by them, and the conclusion he drew was that with talks at an end, it was time to close the encampment.