Occupy L.A.: Was It Worth It?

The Occupy L.A. campsite at City Hall

The protest known as Occupy L.A. will cost our budget-strapped city. Exactly how much it will cost the City of Angels remains unclear, as estimates vary wildly.

This week Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced that the total cost to remove and clean up after the protestors will be in the millions.

Figures released this week show that it will cost the city approximately $700,000 to pay for the police raid and $400,000 to restore the lawn outside of City Hall. There is already disagreement about the latter figure. Some have argued that prevailing rates would put the cost much lower, and City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana has put the figure at more than $400,000.

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Additional costs include things like repairing sprinklers, restoring trees, renovating paths and stairs and removing graffiti. When dozens of people camp out outside of City Hall they will cause some damage and wear and tear.

How will the city get the money to pay for the costs associated with Occupy L.A.? According to Mayor Villaraigosa, with even more budget cuts.

And how many people were actually arrested in the Occupy L.A. raid? This week the Los Angeles City Attorney Carmen Trutanich said that almost 300 people were arrested last month when the Los Angeles Police Department disbanded the months-long protest. Of those arrestees, 51 have been charged with crimes. Most of the charges are for failing to disband/disperse. Some protestors have been sentenced to probation and community service. Others will be eligible for diversion programs, which would include taking classes on speech, assembly and associational rights.

The larger question is not exactly how much Occupy L.A. will cost the City (although certainly that is an important inquiry that must be made); it is whether it was worth it. Measuring whether and how large the benefits of the protest will be difficult. People have different views of its effectiveness. However, when the final price tag of Occupy L.A. is determined, we must endeavor to decide whether it "paid off."

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

Flickr photo by waltarrrrr used under a Creative Commons License.

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