In the US, the message from the mayors is simple: You’ve made your point. Now go to your room and shut up. We’ve got a lawn to keep up, and you’ve spoiled it. America’s “grown-ups” as the political class likes to think of itself, have never had much patience when it comes to the “children”, as its mere citizens are known. And yet, America’s democratic revolutionary origins are at the very centre of a radically different vision of what American exceptionalism is all about.
The situation in Los Angeles is particularly exemplary. Although city officials welcomed Occupy LA at first, for weeks on end Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and others have been saying it’s time to leave. Villaraigosa - like Obama - is a former progressive organiser turned neo-liberal politician. He was a teacher’s union organiser when I first met him in the 1980s, as part of a progressive precinct network aimed at getting disaffected progressive voters to the polls.
Also within the coalition’s core was the LA National Lawyers Guild’s executive director. When Villaraigosa first took office in 2006, his first big battle was against the teacher’s union he used to work for. He took them on with the backing of billionaire real estate developer and education “reformer” Eli Broad. Five years later, as he faces off against Occupy LA, the current NLG executive director, James Lafferty, is one of his major opponents.
With no sense of irony, Villaraigosa thought Thanksgiving weekend was the perfect time for an eviction. “It’s clear that this mayor cares more about dead grass than a dead economy,” Lafferty responded at an Occupy LA press conference. “The 99 per cent that have been thrown out of their homes, jobless, without proper healthcare and all the rest seem to be less important to him than that lawn.”