Lettuce Grow! LAPD and Occupy LA Face-Off Over Organic Vegetables

As the November 3rd General Assembly at Occupy Los Angeles drifted into its third hour, a decision had still not yet been reached on whether or not to remove eight vegetable planters that threatened Occupiers from making it through their 35th night at City Hall.

The 2×6 planters arrived at Occupy LA at 10:30 A.M. on November 3rd in pieces of wood donated by a local community member in order to create an edible garden for the growing number of Occupiers as a source of food and a teaching tool, according to volunteer Master Gardener Baza Novic, who oversaw construction.

But as the team finished assembling the last planter, members of the LAPD arrived. And although they would not make an official statement, garden coordinator Magda Rod said that the officers “made it clear they didn’t want them here.” During the General Assembly an Occupier involved in the garden project said that the police wanted the boxes removed from City Hall property because they represented a “sign of permanence and not an exit strategy.”

The team moved the portable wooden structures to the sidewalk off City Hall, where they sat for the afternoon until they were brought back in for discussion during the night’s General Assembly. The Occupiers were split and heated over the issue: Some saw the cabbage, lettuce, broccoli, mustard greens and artichokes as superfluous and incapable of significantly feeding the movement, and an unwarranted threat with the potential to derail the economic focal point if their presence forced a raid; others saw the planters as symbolic and highly poignant. “Food is the original economy,” said Novic, “It’s appropriate to empower people by showing how easy it is to save money and address health concerns while unplugging from the corporate food system. It invokes personal responsibility and sustainability—critical factors in creating a new economic model.”

Occupiers have faced similar threats from the LAPD over tents, but they were not ultimately forced off the property. Fears that Mayor Villaraigosa may soon decide that the group has overextended their welcome seemed to be a factor in whether or not to let the vegetables be planted, but temperature reads from the group showed the majority supports keeping the garden beds. “This is what the movement is about,” Novic said, “it’s time for all of us to grow.”

[Editor’s Note: As of 12 pm Friday, November 4th, 2011, Occupy LA reports that due to LAPD pressure on the donor of the boxes, they were removed from City Hall.]

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Image: Jill Ettinger