Whether Occupy L.A. Succeeds or Fails, Civic Engagement Is Alive and Well

Before the LAPD began closing down the Occupy L.A. encampment at city hall

In the words of the legendary Margaret Mead, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."

The removal of the members of the Occupy Los Angeles movement from the lawn outside City Hall seems to have, at least temporarily, captured the City's attention. If my Twitter and Facebook feeds, favorite local blogs, local television and news coverage are any indication, the Occupy Los Angeles movement was at least successful in starting a city-wide dialogue about the pros and cons of the group.

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Some view the movement as embracing an important message about wealth disparities and various types of corruption. Others see the movement as a loosely associated group of individuals who lack a coherent message and who have done little but cost the city money in law enforcement time and clean up costs.

Or put another way, is Occupy Los Angeles a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens who will change the world, or are members of a counter-productive group whose greatest accomplishment will be the destruction of the lawn outside of City Hall?

Hours after the Los Angeles Police Department cleared members of the Occupy Los Angeles movement in downtown Los Angeles many are asking questions about the state of activism in Los Angeles and surrounding environs. Will the LAPD's actions spell the end of the occupy movement? Will other groups absorb the leaders of the movement? Will anyone continue to espouse the sentiments behind the movement?

After last night, my sense is that civic activism will continue. There are too many important governance issues facing the city and the state for people across the entire political spectrum to remain silent. Last night I spoke to a local political club about the consequences of redistricting on the federal, state and local level. I am continually impressed by the smart, informed questions I get whenever I have the privilege of speaking to people who join both partisan and non-partisan political organizations. They give me faith that there are citizens who deeply care about the direction of our government, even if their ideas of how to fix it are diametrically opposed.

So whether or not you want the Occupy Los Angeles movement to succeed and whether it will, may only be the visible part of a much broader question that is being debated by concerned citizens throughout our city.

Jessica Levinson writes about the intersection of law and government in Los Angeles every week. She is a Visiting Professor at Loyola Law School.

The photo on this post is by Tom Andrews, via KCET's Southern California Flickr Pool.

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