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  • I don't know how many of you have seen the photo making its way through the news sites, photojournalism sites, and other such places of the woman from the Occupy LA raid in the gas mask on the orange background. For some reason, this photo has become the popular image of that night. I am that woman, and this is my story of my experience at that raid.

    I went to Occupy LA for the showdown between the police and protesters. The LAPD spent hours at Dodger Stadium beforehand prepping for the raid to evict the protesters who had been camped there for over a month or so. A total of 1400 police attended.

    I arrived around 11 pm or 11:30 in my gas mask, both as a statement and for safety purposes. I could see cops with about ten canisters of tear gas strapped to their torsos standing in the middle of the intersection of 1st and Broadway in Downtown LA- I was on the front line of protesters at that intersection facing off with the men holding the line against the crowd.

    That night, I held hands with strangers under the glare of helicopter spotlights, I stood toe to toe with the LAPD, and I watched from across the intersection as the police rushed the Occupy encampment on the courthouse lawn. The raid began around 12:30 pm, but the night wasn't anywhere close to over.

    My side of the crowd of protesters (on the far side of the intersection) started marching to make our way around the extensive police barricades and get to the other side of the intersection to join the other protesters through a very roundabout route. We marched down perhaps ten blocks, broke through a police line amidst a flurry of triumphant cries, and came up around the back to join the crowd of several hundred other protesters.

    I stood at the front of the crowd again, and saw a white van with loudspeakers pull up behind the line of officers. The speakers crackled as they informed us that this had been declared an unlawful gathering, and that we had ten minutes to disperse before they began arresting people. We did not leave, but I made my way to the back of the crowd to avoid the billy clubs in case everything went to Hell. At the ten minute mark, the police started moving forward, and the crowd surged like a tidal wave as everyone began running at once from the approaching line of cops, who had also flanked us on both sides. There were too many protesters though, and we kept running back to chant more as police handcuffed the few protesters they could catch.

    From there the night turned into a game of cat and mouse with LA's finest- we marched as the police followed, we ran as they tried to catch up, flank us, surround us, and arrest us. As we ran down one street with the cops at our heels, a line of police would appear at the end of the street, and like a flock of birds we would turn, running back, often cutting through parking lots, lawns, or side alleys to get away from the police closing in on either side. It felt like a terrible indie rock music video- a huge group of hundreds of young people in street clothes and the occasional gas mask running from thousands of cops through the dark and empty streets of Downtown, highlighted by helicopter spotlights. Finally around 3:00 am the crowd had mostly broken up as people were either arrested or separated by the police lines and barricades. I managed to make my way back to my car, weaving around barricades and maneuvering through the maze of closed streets.
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