Occupy Fullerton Keeps Its Word; Grass Expected to Recover Soon

Occupy Fullerton moves out, leaves grass that will recover

Occupy Fullerton keeps its word: a few days at Brea Dam, then it's on to the next city to make new friends.

I was driving back from a political meeting in Fullerton Saturday evening and I decided to stop by the Occupy Fullerton encampment at the “Duck Pond”; the portion of Hillcrest Park adjacent to the corner of Harbor and Brea Boulevards.  But, with the exception of a few stragglers finishing the site cleanup, it was gone.  For more than a month I (and many many others) have been driving up the hill towards Brea, seeing a colorful little village of tents and signs; its absence was a shock.  The tents, which bumped up to above 50 as of last weekend’s Occupalooza — a political gathering that before long just became a lot of Occupy people from as far away as Seattle having fun together — had become part of the landscape.  Judging from the happy honks that the villagers would often elicit from passing drivers, far more frequently than the witticism of the day “Get a job!”, I’m not the only one who will miss them.

By the way: as we confirmed with the City weeks ago, that brown and yellow grass that you see in the photo will be fine.  It just needs some watering and a little time.  When the grass grows back, the implicit message of such a physical encampment to the broader community — that SOMETHING IS OUT OF PLACE, SOMETHING IS WRONG, SOMETHING NEEDS TO BE FIXED — will have been erased from Fullerton except in photographs and human memories.  Fullerton will have a good story to tell; a lot of people will have learned a lot about our issues; and it will have two good new resolutions on its books, including one that will direct the city’s savings to institutions more likely to reinvest it here.  Not bad for less than two months in the area!

I’ve been occupied — heh-heh — elsewhere in recent days, so while I knew that the plan was for the encampment to move out of the Duck Pond this weekend I hadn’t been paying close enough attention.  I had thought that it was to happen on Sunday.  But they were supposed to move out by 5 p.m. Saturday — and they did.  The will spend a few days at the Brea Dam campsite up Harbor, recuperating while they continue to reconnoiter their next target, the it’s off and out of Fullerton — at least as a campsite.  (Occupy protesters reserve the right to go anywhere it wants during hours when the parks aren’t closed.)

(Please mentally insert the boilerplate “I can’t officially speak for Occupy OC in these manners but …” disclaimer here.)

I know that this won’t be popular with some of our readers, but I have to be as fair with praise as I was prepared to be with criticism had things gone otherwise: the City did a great job with “enduring” us.  (We’re still irked that the Council didn’t pass a resolution opposing Citizens United, but if one of the three councilmen who opposed it — all of them face elections this year — is wise, he will move to reconsider the motion even without Occupy’s further prompting.)  Mayor Sharon Quirk-Silva did not want the encampment to target Fullerton, but once its arrival was a fait accompli she made the best of it, dealing with us honestly and positively but firmly.  All or most of the other councilmembers visited the encampment or met with us at least once, in generally positive meetings.   Chief Dan Hughes and his force “laid down the law” at the outset and we found that we could live with his restrictions; the officers that they assigned to interact with the village were positive and helpful.  (Whether that is representative of the department or just a wise choice of personnel, I leave to the reader to decide; whichever it was, it worked.)  And City Manager Joe Felz, whom I know takes a lot of flak in parts of the local blogosphere, and his staff were professional, creative, and supportive of our legal right to peaceful protest.  (Felz was also an excellent and accessible crisis manager.)  We could hardly ask for more than that.

We know from Fullerton personnel that our old friends from Irvine were good advisors to them from the outset; helping to plan strategy and reassuring them that we really were intent on being good neighbors.  We appreciate that from Irvine; we’ll appreciate both Irvine and Fullerton doing the same with our next planned site.  We don’t expect that city — or any city — to be enthusiastic about receiving us, but we expect them to recognize before long that it is better to work with us than to make us stand up with signs all night — which is of course itself better than pepper-spraying and arresting us.  We’ve now shown that we can protest peacefully for almost five months — long enough that even most of the people who replaced those of us who had burned out have themselves burned out — and we know how to conduct ourselves.  I expect that Fullerton’s government will be breathing a sign of relief at our peaceful departure, but I also expect that our presence will in retrospect be considered one of the better memories in a difficult year.

What I’m especially proud of right now, if you’ll indulge my paternal feelings as one old enough to be the parent of  most Occupiers there and almost old enough to be the grandfather of some, is that the people in our movement kept their word.  They left when they said they would leave; they showed responsibility and trustworthiness.  How cool is that?  That is not a given in these situations, but the villagers decided on their own — at a meeting that I was politely told would probably run more smoothly without my glowering and hectoring presence (or words to that effect) — that they were buying into the peaceful and lawful ethos of Occupy OC and honoring their commitments. Even people here from other Occupations, such as the guy I ran into at the (almost) empty encampment who had been with Occupy LA from the start, get it.  What we’re doing has been worth doing.

The Occupy Movement would be weaker if no groups were willing to engage in civil disobedience — as, within Orange County, the somewhat independent and generally self-governing Occupy Santa Ana movement did and may at some point do again.  (So may the floating encampment, if any city decides to try to prevent us from exercising our legal rights.)  But the movement in Southern California is also stronger for the continued presence — and for the sheer persistence — of the Occupy Orange County model.  The fact that we’re still here, still going strong, meant that people from San Diego to Los Angeles to Phoenix has a place to go, a place that (for some San Diegans) was the first one where they could, even after months of activism, actually sleep for the night in a tent as part of our public protest.  (San Diego’s reception of Occupation has not been a welcoming one.)  In a nation where most Occupy encampments went into hibernation for the winter, due to weather and/or police clampdowns, the fact that our blade of grass still shows through the sidewalk cracks matters to people.  We’ve carried the torch almost to Spring.

I hope that, as Occupy moves on this week to a location that I cannot yet disclose, we can keep up that track record.  And we here in Orange County have some things planned that you will not believe — but that is a story for another time.  Those of you in that new city — and the only thing I’ll say is that we’re honoring our promise that it will not be Irvine — come check us out.  For now: the Occupation continues.

About Greg Diamond

Somewhat verbose attorney, semi-retired due to disability, residing in northwest Brea. Occasionally runs for office against bad people who would otherwise go unopposed. Got 45% of the vote against Bob Huff for State Senate in 2012; Josh Newman then won the seat in 2016. In 2014 became the first attorney to challenge OCDA Tony Rackauckas since 2002; Todd Spitzer then won that seat in 2018. Every time he's run against some rotten incumbent, the *next* person to challenge them wins! He's OK with that. Corrupt party hacks hate him. He's OK with that too. He does advise some local campaigns informally and (so far) without compensation. (If that last bit changes, he will declare the interest.)