originally published January 16, 2012
Once again, I have been granted the privilege to be topical. Yesterday, in the midst of the NFL’s Divisional playoff weekend I wrote about football. Today I’m flipping to those dark sub-sections of the newspaper that are still willing to report on the on-going Occupy movement. To make it a little more fun, and to allow me the opportunity for a handful of jokes about strippers and alcohol, Ms. Wiki directed me to the Occupy Las Vegas movement.
For anyone who has been living upon some hermitous precipice high in the mountains, devoid of any human contact for the past six months, there has been a rash of protests around the US and Canada. Much like the Pizza-By-The-Slice and Sequined-Dance-Numbers movements, this one came out of New York, where a few thousand people staged an extended sit-in to protest the disparity of wealth in America. It reminded me of the Vietnam protests of my parents’ era, except with less pot, crappier music, and a much slimmer chance of having any effect on anything. Still, people were pissed off and they weren’t breaking things, so I didn’t mind it.
About three weeks after the Occupy Wall Street movement kicked in, the angry members of the “99%” in Las Vegas who weren’t busy being strippers or drunk in a casino (see? That was easy!) got together and formed what they called the General Assembly as the basis for planning the Sin City version of the movement. This was the logo they chose:
As you can see, it utilizes the standard Clenched-Fist-O-Anger insignia that has been used in numerous rebellions, and which is also well-known as the official logo of Howard Stern:
Also, it was probably pioneered by this guy:
The General Assembly was formed and ready to go on October 6, 2011. They began designing their placards, and actively hating corporations whilst no doubt consuming vast quantities of Coke, wearing clothes from the Gap, and keeping their protest plans secure on an Apple Macbook. The protesters cooperated with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department right from the start, and actually did a fine job of avoiding any interference from the cops or the government. They also coordinated with local officials to ensure that all protest activities were carried out within walking distance of the nearest Fat Tuesday’s.
The big activity in the movement’s first week was to stage a march down the Las Vegas Strip. It’s estimated that a thousand people took part, though it’s not known how many protesters were distracted and redirected when they were handed cards indicating the available prostitutes in the immediate vicinity. The march was peaceful, no one was arrested, and the 1% gave up roughly 0% of their wealth in response to it.
Week two featured another march. This time they Occupied the Fremont Street Experience in downtown Vegas instead, for two reasons: there was no worry about traffic since the street is pedestrian only, and the drink specials at the Golden Nugget are outstanding.
For the third week, the leaders of the movement decided there were no more streets in Vegas upon which they could march, so they set up camp in a parking lot near the airport. They called it ‘Area 99’, after a logical joining of the terms ‘Area 51’ and ‘Agent 99’.
Week four was Halloween. Just because these protesters are furious at the elite few who buy elections and manipulate the stock market doesn’t mean they don’t love to party. On October 30, the General Assembly organized another march down the strip, this time in full zombie attire. I’m hoping they made new signs, with slogans like “1% Of The Nation’s Dead Control 99% Of The Brains”.
The next week, things started to get ugly in Area 99. During a midnight meeting on November 3, a non-profit group called Opportunities Las Vegas was formed, and a couple days later a rift began to emerge. Someone on the non-profit’s board of directors stated that he would refuse to acknowledge the General Assembly’s authority over the group. The split deepened amid a scandal that, due to some stolen passwords and that classic hippie sense of humor we all love, caused the Occupy Las Vegas website to redirect visitors to an anti-Semitic hate group. In short, the groups split, and both claimed to be the heirs to the Occupy Las Vegas spirit.
November 18 saw the first arrests in the movement, as Occupiers around the country carried out more disruptive demonstrations in order to commemorate two months since the protests began. Roughly twenty protesters wandered onto Las Vegas Boulevard in front of the Federal Building and sat in the road, linking arms and chanting. Delightful as this may have appeared, it wasn’t bringing any tourist money in, so the police stepped in and hauled everyone in.
I’m just as cynical as anyone about the Occupy movement. On the one hand, I agree with a lot of what they’re pissed off about, and I respect that they want significant changes to come about without them having to burn buildings and people. On the other hand, their grandest goals seem unachievable and they lack a swarthy, charismatic leader who can take command with a respectable and intelligent voice.
Nevertheless, the Las Vegas movement hasn’t been an exercise in complete futility (they did have a zombie march, that was cool). In November, gas station owner Katja Crosby was about to lose her business due to foreclosure. She fell behind in her bills after having to pay for treatment for a kidney infection – I’ll save the Obama-care and the damn-living-in-Canada-is-nice rhetoric for another article.
The bank told her they wanted her $40,000 loan paid in full, right freaking now. Cops showed up to shut her down, but the Occupy movement swooped in all Batman-like and claimed turf on the property. The media followed and the cops left without finishing the job, allowing Crosby to stay open. Whether or not her bank works out a payment plan, I guess we’ll see. But as much as critics may decry the Occupy movement as useless pinko-commie blather, in this one instance they came through and helped a sister out.
I can’t wait until “the 1%” try to foreclose a Las Vegas strip club. That will be film-at-eleven worth watching.