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Ron Kaye: A spark of life in the conversation

October 09, 2011

Born and raised in Glendale, a Boy Scout and a graduate of Flintridge Prep, Joe Briones now calls the streets of downtown Los Angeles his home.

Briones, 29, a film student at L.A. City College, is homeless by choice, an organizer of the Occupy Los Angeles movement encamped at City Hall.

A true believer that the moment is at hand for a revolution in American society, he provides a window into the Occupation movement that started with confrontational Occupy Wall Street and then spread across the country, raising questions about just what it is and where it is going.

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“This is that moment that I’ve been waiting for, when the people can take back control of their lives from the interests of business,” he said.

Briones’ political views are about as far left as you can go, past socialism to anarchism.

“Anarchists get a bad name,” he said. “It’s not about destruction and chaos. It’s about creating a system of social organization without hierarchy. That’s one of the things that makes the Occupation movement so great — we are leaderless. Past movements, you cut off the head and the body dies. That isn’t possible here.”

The 200 mostly 20-something protesters sleeping in dozens of tents on City Hall’s north lawn represent a lot of different political views, a sort of leftist counterpoint to the Tea Party, a political phenomenon that is gaining momentum even as it is searching for its identity.

Yet, they sometimes sound like Congressman Ron Paul, with frequent calls to “End the Fed,” blaming much of the nation’s economic problems on the Federal Reserve and its close ties to the banks and Wall Street.

And they denounce President Obama for the bank bailout, the continuing wars and the failure to deliver on his promises.

“It might as well be Bush doing those things,” as Briones put it.

Much like the 1960s, when civil rights and anti-war sentiment inflamed the passions of the young, this generation of protesters is facing the same questions: What are they for? What do they want?

Figuring that out in daily meetings of several dozen committees and a nightly “General Assembly” — broadcast live in streaming video on the Internet all day long — consumes a lot of the time and energy of the protesters.

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