Was Occupy Los Angeles Worth the Money?

Hundreds of LAPD officers wait to walk into the Occupy Los Angeles protest encampment following the November 30, 2011 raid. | Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Unfortunately the following statement is hardly a newsflash: the city of Los Angeles is strapped for cash. It faces a budget shortfall of about $200 million and a little pocket change will not help dig the city out from its current budget deficit.

Currently city officials are discussing whether, when, and how many city employees to layoff. Even police and fire employees are at risk.

It may be euphemistic to call the city's current fiscal situation precarious. Perhaps "precarious at best" is more apt. The point is that Los Angeles is in a financially bad state (both literally and figuratively).

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A recent report released last week states that last year's Occupy Los Angeles protest will cost the City almost double the original estimate. Taxpayers will apparently be on the hook for almost $5 million in costs associated with the lengthy protest and encampment.

How, you may ask, do we get to this price tag? The price tag includes paying 1,400 LAPD officers to remove demonstrators who camped out on the lawn outside City Hall for two months and costs associated with cleaning up that encampment, which, according to some estimates, was home to about 500 protestors. One way to look at the cost of the protest is therefore $10,000 per protestor.

Personally I would have preferred that the city spend $5 million trying to fix some of the problems the protestors discussed (or at least keeping city workers employed). While the movement was loosely defined at times, it appeared to be unified by the broad goals of reducing wealth disparity and corrupt corporate practices. These are real problems well worth discussing. However, one question is whether our cash-strapped city got its money's worth.

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.


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