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Approximately 200 demonstrators in support of Palestine lined the south side of Wilshire Blvd. to protest the recent escalation of violence between Israel and Hamas. Photo Credit: Kat Russell / Multimedia Editor @ Daily Sundial

>>> UPDATE, Nov. 21

Israel and Hamas reached a ceasefire agreement brokered by Egypt on Wednesday. Israel agreed to a truce but refused to lift the blockade on Palestinian territory.

In the eight days of fighting that began Nov. 14, more than 140 Palestinians and five Israelis have been killed.

In spite of the agreement, violence still raged on Wednesday.

A bus bomb exploded near the Israel’s Defense Ministry and military headquarters in Tel Aviv wounding 15 people.

Israel struck more than 100 targets in Gaza, including a cluster of Hamas government buildings, killing 10 people one of which was a 2-year-old boy.

Gaza continued to fire rockets at Tel Aviv, none of which reached the city.

>>> UPDATE, Nov. 20

Israel and Hamas came closer to a ceasefire, however a deal still remained uncertain and fighting continued to rage on both sides of the border.

Israeli tanks and gunboats struck targets in Gaza while at least 200 rockets were fired into Israel.

Ceasefire proceedings are being held in Cairo and have involved the U.S. Secretary of State, the U.N. chief and Egypt’s president in addition to representatives of both Hamas an the Israeli government.

Israel has demanded an end to rocket fire from Gaza and a stop to weapons smuggling into Gaza through the tunnels connecting to Egypt. Israel also wants guarantees that Hamas will not rearm or use Egypt’s Sinai region to attack Israelis.

Hamas has demanded that Israel halt all attacks on Gaza and lift tight restrictions on trade and movement in and out of the territory that have been in place since Hamas came into power in 2007.

An estimated 130 Palestinians, many of which were civilians, have been killed and hundreds wounded since the conflict’s start on Nov. 14 and five Israelis have been killed by rocket fire.

>>> UPADATE, Nov. 19

The latest casualty figures out of Gaza reported 22 people killed since midnight, Sunday Nov. 18. Included in the report were Palestinians killed in air strikes by warplanes, a drone attack on two men riding a motorcycle and a father his two toddler-aged sons in their bombed home in northern Gaza. Another Israeli drone attack killed a taxi driver hired by journalists and displaying “press” signs.

Three people have been killed in Israel so far, all of which were civilians, in a rocket attack that hit an apartment house in southern Israel on Nov. 15. The Israelis said that at least 79 people have been wounded since the violence began.

Hamas leader dared Israel to launch a ground invasion of Gaza and dismissed efforts to broker a ceasefire.

Israel conducted a new wave of airstrikes, including a second hit on a 15-story building that housed media outlets.

Gaza fired multiple rockets into southern Israel one of which hit a vacant school. Diplomatic efforts to reach a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas are underway in Cairo where Khaled Meshal, leader of Hamas, called the Israeli infantry mobilization on the border of Gaza a bluff on the part of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

>>> UPDATE, Nov. 18

An Israeli airstrike struck two media buildings in Gaza injuring eight journalists, with one needing a leg amputated. The airstrike also damaged the Al Sharouk building in which several foreign journalists have been staying.

The Israeli Defense Force (IDF) had admitted to targeting the media building that housed offices for international media in Gaza and confirmed having knowledge that foreign journalists were in at least one of the media buildings struck. However, Israel denied targeting journalists saying that the second attack on the Al Sharouk building had targeted an office of the Islamic Jihad

An Israeli bomb killed eleven people, including three generations of a single family, making it the deadliest single strike since the conflict began. The incident sparked a rally in Gaza on Monday in support of Gaza’s militant Hamas rulers.

Hamas continued to fire rockets into Israel. Injuries have been reported in the towns of Ashkelon and Ofakim.

Both Israeli and Hamas officials said attempts to reach a ceasefire are ongoing.

>>> UPDATE, Nov. 16

Israel conducted five airstrikes on Gaza City before dawn on Nov. 16, destroying the offices of Ismail Haniya, the prime minister of Hamas. The airstrike also hit the main police complex nearby.

At the same time, a heavy Israeli bombardment was reported at the south end of the Gaza Strip, which targeted the smuggling tunnels leading into Egypt.

Israel confirmed the attacks, saying that it had also targeted the Hamas Ministry of Interior – a training facility – a site believed house weapons stores and launching sites.

According to Israel, the bombardments were retaliation for Palestinian rocket attacks on Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

No deaths have been yet reported.

>>> UPDATE, Nov. 15

Palestinian militants fired rockets at Jerusalem and Tel Aviv for the first time, pushing Israel closer to a possible ground invasion. Hamas said in a statement that the rockets were meant to hit the Israeli Parliament.

One of the rockets landed in an open space, south of Jerusalem, near and Israeli settlement. It was unclear where the other rockets landed. No damage or injuries were reported.

Hamas said in a statement that the rockets were meant to hit the Israeli Parliament.

The Israeli government has more than doubled its number of reservists, preparing them for possible invasion if needed.  The Israeli military has also closed roads, running adjacent to Gaza, in anticipation of a possible ground incursion into Gaza. This would be the first Israeli military maneuver on the ground in Gaza since the 2008-9 invasion.

>>> UPDATED with additional information

As the violence between Israel and Hamas escalated to the worst conflict seen between the two sides in recent years, demonstrators sympathetic to both sides gathered in protest outside the Israeli consulate in West LA. on Nov. 15.

An estimated 200 people sympathetic to the Palestinian cause carried signs depicting graphic images of mangled bodies and wounded children and chanted slogans calling for Israel to put an end to its occupation of the Gaza Strip and the oppression of the Palestinian people.

“Once again, the state of Israel has decided to massacre the Palestinian people in an indiscriminate way and we, as a community, cannot just sit here,” said Taher Herzallah the campus coordinator for American Muslims for Palestine.

At the same time, approximately 20 demonstrators sympathetic to Israel gathered on the opposite side of the street, waving Israeli flags and calling out in response to the pro-Palestinian slogans.

“(This is a) protest against the killing of terrorists (Hamas military leader, Ahmed Jibari) and to condemn a country (Israel) for defending its citizens who live under rocket fire on a daily basis,” said Israel supporter, Moshe Arnold. He went on to say that “whenever there’s evil, someone has to respond with truth and goodness and that’s why we are here tonight.”

The protest was arranged through a series of emails sent out the night before, by Answer Coalition, an umbrella group consisting of numerous antiwar and civil rights organizations.

“Anytime there’s a war going on that’s unjust, we (members of Answer Coalition) come out to protest” said Michael Kakes, a member of the Part for Socialism and Liberation, which is part of the Answer Coalition network.

Although the demonstrations remained peaceful, the crowds were heated and shouted angry words across the street at each other.

Approximately 40 LAPD officers lined both sides of Wilshire to contain the demonstrators on their own sides of the street. Andrew Smith, LAPD’s Commanding Officer of Media Relations, said that in situations involving two opposing sides, the LAPD aims to keep each side from antagonizing the other while allowing both sides ample space to exercise their rights to free speech.

The recent violence between Hamas and Israel was renewed on Nov. 14 when Israel assassinated Ahmed Jabari, the head of Hamas military operations. According to Israel, the strike was retaliation for increased rocket attacks from Gaza.  Israel called the action a tactical operation carried out in response to an increase in rocket attacks, from Hamas, on Southern Israel.

Since the conflict’s onset, Israel and Hamas bombarded each other with more than 1,500 rockets killing 161 Palestinians, 71 of which were civilians, and 5 Israelis. Authorities have referred to the conflict as the worst violence Israel and Palestine have since Israel’s invasion of Gaza in 2008.

>>> Audio slideshow from the protest:

I started an internship, about a month ago, with a pretty major news outlet here in California. I am working as a reporter/multimedia journalist for a community news blog that focuses on South Los Angeles (or South Central). The experience thus far has been many things: interesting, challenging, surprising, enlightening and, most of all, eye-opening.

I grew up in a small community on the western edge of South LA, called View Park. For that reason, I felt as if this internship would be a little easier on me, having come from the area. However, my experience has been such that the more time I spend in the community, the more I realize that I knew, and know, next to nothing about the area I grew up in, or the city of Los Angeles as a whole. It’s an interesting feeling to live in a city your entire life and suddenly realize how little you know of it. I’ve given so much effort to getting to know other countries and other cultures, not that that’s a bad thing, that I have completely overlooked the community that shaped me.

Perhaps the most startling realization I have come to, since I started working in the South LA community, is how deeply and subtly media messages and values are embedded in my thoughts and beliefs about this community. I have always prided myself on having a critical and analytical mind. Being an english major previously and a journalism major currently, I naively thought that media messages had less of an impact on my psyche. However, when it came time for me to walk around South Central, on my own, with my camera in hand, I became acutely aware of my discomfort, paranoia, and fear.  I am not normally a person who is afraid to go out into the world, to talk to people, to photograph, etc. but as I stepped out of my car onto Central Ave., I experienced an internal shift from confident to fearful. This startled me. I was shocked to find that all of my media training – all of my critical thinking skills – didn’t offer me any more of a defense than the average media consumer. The stereotypes of the community and its people and the stigma attached to the area, were very much in the front of my mind.

Over the past month, my experiences in South LA have shown me a community that is entirely different from the one I was taught to see. It is a community with a vibrant history and culture, of which only shreds remain. South LA was decimated in the riots of both 1965 and 1992 and the community has never completely recovered from those traumas. However, if you can look beyond the problems, which are deeply embedded in the everyday life there, you will find people who are hard working, genuine, warm, and welcoming – at least that has been my experience.

I’m not sure where I am going with this post. I suppose I wanted to introduce a new topic to write about and most importantly, I wanted to start a new and different conversation about this community – a community that seems to have been abandoned; left to be ravaged by the problems which plague it. While the rest of LA grows, progresses and enjoys the many fruits of its labors, South LA  is scraping to get by, one day at a time.

When I walk the streets in South LA, I see a vital population of people who want the same things as everyone else – happiness, health, success and a chance for their children to grow up to have the same or better. The people there get up everyday, pull themselves up by their bootstraps, and work to build their lives despite of the odds against them. At the same time, underneath the welcoming smiles and warm conversations, there is a sense of sadness and defeat that can only be felt in a community that has been isolated; left to its own devices, without support.

I find South LA to be many things, most of them contradictory to each other: complicated yet simple, saddening yet joyful, lively yet dreary, lacking yet rich in many ways. Most of all, I find it to be inspiring. My curiosity is peaked.

The Occupy Los Angeles encampment, which has been inhabiting the lawns of City Hall in Downtown Los Angeles for the past two months, was evicted in the early hours of November 30, when approximately 1,400 LAPD police officers stormed out of City Hall, surrounded the encampment and arrested the remaining occupants.

Mayor Villaraigosa had initially set the eviction deadline for 12:01 a.m. Monday, November 28, but an influx of nearly 2,000 supporters on that night caused city officials to hold off on enforcing the eviction orders in the hope that protesters would disperse on their own.

I was present for the November 28 standoff with the LAPD and for the eviction on November 30 and what struck me the most about the mainstream media accounts of the actual eviction were the differences between my own experience and those of the people I knew, who were there, and the accounts of the media.

In hindsight, I realized that the November 28 standoff was more of a “recon mission” than an actual threat of eviction. It was the perfect opportunity for the LAPD to pose a threat and observe the protesters’ reactions. All of us fell for it – hook, line and sinker. During the eviction I was able to witness what the LAPD had learned from the standoff the day before and the plans they put into action based on those observations.

The actual eviction began shortly after midnight on November 30. Up until then, the LAPD kept the visible police presence to a minimum with only a line of officers guarding the front of the police station on Main and First, across from the encampment.

Just before midnight, a line of officers, wearing black and white helmets and sporting batons, appeared on the south side of the First and Main intersection. A diversion. The LAPD had learned from the standoff, that if they presented a line of officers, in this case across the street from the encampment, that the protesters would rush to confront them (verbally), thus dividing the crowd between those remaining in the encampment and those in the streets. It worked.

A few minutes after the appearance of that line of officers, in a swift and surprise attack, approximately 1,400 officers rushed out of City Hall, kicking over tents and brandishing their batons, and surrounded the camp, thus locking out those who were in the streets and locking in those who remained in the camp.

The people who were in the street were immediately pushed back to the far sides of the intersections on either side of the camp, where lines of officers kept them at bay. Inside the encampment, the officers formed two inner circles – one surrounding the group of protesters who were in the center of the park, and another one around the outer perimeter of the park’s center. Officers lined all the walkways leading into the park and a final circle was formed at the outside perimeter of the park.

They came fast, hard and in full force. They greatly out numbered the protesters – there were approximately four officers for every one protester. The first wave came out of City Hall pushing over people and  kicking over tents in their path with batons at the ready.

The first arrest I witnessed took place maybe 45 minutes after the onset of the raid. I was standing outside the inner circle, with a line of officers separating me from the protesters on the inside. A young man to my left was standing next to me with his girlfriend, holding up his cell phone (presumably collecting video) in one hand and a peace sign with his other hand. Without any provocation, two officers suddenly grabbed him and dragged him out of the crowd, pinning him down and cuffing him. Three officers then carried him away with his girlfriend (who was later arrested) crying and calling after him.

And so it began. Arrest after arrest was made. Approximately 300 protesters were arrested that night and loaded on to LAPD buses where that sat for as long as seven hours with their hands tightly bound, unable to move or go to the bathroom. After talking to some of the arrestees after the eviction, I learned that some of those arrested passed out or lost feeling in their arms and hands from the cuffs being too tight, others became ill and were vomiting from the pressure points used by the officers when they were removing the protesters, and several were forced to go to the bathroom, on the buses, where they sat.

All in all, in comparison to some of the other evictions which have taken place across the country, namely Oakland and New York, the OccupyLA eviction was executed with significantly less violence, but it wasn’t without brutality of one form or another. Realistically, the encampments were going to have to come to a close at some point, but I can’t say I am in total agreement with the way they came to a close.

As a journalist, my biggest concern or gripe with the OccupyLA eviction was the blatant muzzling of the press during the actual event. Journalists were restricted, not only in number, but in the access they were given and how they were allowed to transmit their information. Mayor Villaraigosa and the LAPD trampled the First Amendment that night without remorse and without justification. In doing so, their actions were absent of integrity or transparency and they succeeded in minimizing the accountability of, not only the officers, but of the protesters as well. It was a show of blatant disrespect for the truth and for the public’s right to know the truth, whatever it may be.

Occupy Los Angeles was scheduled for a so-called eviction, which was to take place anytime after 12:01 a.m. on Monday, November 28. What happened however, was a large-scale “theatrical display” orchestrated by the LAPD in order to create a media frenzy in which they could demonstrate how  well-behaved and restrained their officers are.

On Friday, November 25, Mayor Villaraigosa and LAPD Chief of Police Charlie Beck, announced that the city will be closing “Solidarity Park”, at 12:01 a.m., on Monday November 28 and that the park’s closure would be enforced sometime after that, thus signing Occupy LA’s eviction notice.

In response to the announcement, some 2,000 supporters flooded the camp on Sunday, in the hopes of preventing what was believed to be an imminent eviction. Protesters poured into the streets surrounding City Hall, blocking traffic up until the early morning hours.

The LAPD kept their police presence minimal for most of the night, making their presence known sometime after midnight and increasing in numbers throughout the night.

The 7 hour standoff, which stretched from roughly midnight to 7 a.m., resulted in the LAPD Police Commander, Andrew Smith, stating they were not going to attempt eviction that night and requesting that the occupiers vacate the intersections of 1st and Spring and 1st and Main. In reality, the LAPD had not planned to evict the occupiers to begin with.

Their goal was simple: threaten eviction, present a moderately large police presence (approximately 400 – 500 officers appeared sometime close to 4 a.m.), and watch for the occupiers’ reaction. You could call it a test run, or a study – LAPD was attempting to learn how the protesters would react to eviction (would there be violence? would there be resistance?), what they would do (would they disperse? would they attempt to protect their encampment?), and where their weak spots were.

This I realized in hindsight, after witnessing the actual eviction. The observations the LAPD had gathered on Monday morning, during the standoff, directly influenced the planning of the actual eviction. Brilliant strategy (even if I hate to admit it).

The eviction took place two days later.

Occupy Los Angeles, a faction of the Occupy Wall Street movement, has been camping out on the Lawns of City Hall for the past 7 weeks. What started as a small encampment now covers virtually all open space surrounding the government building.

The movement, which started on Wall Street and has now spread to every major city in the United states and many in Europe, was inspired by an Adbusters blog post, which was posted on July 13, 2011. The ad called for people to take action, starting on September 17, by flooding into Lower Manhattan and setting up tents, kitchens and peaceful barricades with the intent of occupying Wall Street for an unspecified amount of time.

The Adbusters blog reads:

“The time has come to deploy this emerging stratagem against the greatest corrupter of our democracy: Wall Street, the financial Gomorrah of America.

On September 17, we want to see 20,000 people flood into lower Manhattan, set up tents, kitchens, peaceful barricades and occupy Wall Street for a few months. Once there, we shall incessantly repeat one simple demand in a plurality of voices.

Tahrir succeeded in large part because the people of Egypt made a straightforward ultimatum – that Mubarak must go – over and over again until they won. Following this model, what is our equally uncomplicated demand?

The most exciting candidate that we’ve heard so far is one that gets at the core of why the American political establishment is currently unworthy of being called a democracy: we demand that Barack Obama ordain a Presidential Commission tasked with ending the influence money has over our representatives in Washington. It’s time for DEMOCRACY NOT CORPORATOCRACY, we’re doomed without it.”

In Los Angeles, the occupation began on October 1 with a few people and tents. In the last 2 weeks, the encampment has grown to several hundred tents and up to 800 occupiers. Several organizations have joined in the movement and events and marches have been planned for almost every weekend since the camp moved in.

On November 11, 2011, Occupy LA held and afternoon music festival. Bands of all kinds participated including RVIVR, a punk band from Olympia Washington. A friend and I were down at the encampment that day and decided to word together on a short multimedia piece about the band.

Here it is:

Thousands of protesters took to the streets of Downtown Los Angeles on October 15, 2011 for what they dubbed the “Global Change March”. The protestors started in Pershing Square where they rallied first and then proceeded to march through the downtown financial district. There were approximately 2,000 in attendance for the march. The march ended back at City Hall, where occupants have been camping for the last 3 weeks in protest of Big Banks’ corruption and profit hoarding, the staggering unemployment rate, and the prevalence of corporate greed. The rest of the day boasted several events from speakers known in the financial and activism worlds to bands showing their solidarity and support by performing.

As the name “Global Change March” might imply, similar marches took place in more than 1,000 cities in over 92 countries across the globe. There are a lot of fed up people in the world right now. Turn outs all over the world averaged in the tens of thousands. The most notable turn out, in my opinion, had to be Madrid, Spain where an unfathomable 500,000 people flooded in to the streets and packed into the city’s center. What’s even more remarkable to me is that the Madrid protest was peaceful!!!

I was at the OccupyLA rally and march and I must say that as nice as it was to see people actively protesting, standing up for what they think is right, and really trying to make their voices heard, I was disappointed by the small scale of the LA march. A couple thousand people, in a city that claims approximately 10,000,000, is unfortunate. Don’t get me wrong, the protest was filled with passion and energy, and I really enjoyed being there and being a part of it, but at the same time I found myself wondering “where is everybody?”

Since I was there as a press photographer, I had the job of documenting the march. I decided to do things a little differently this time. I shot photos, as usual, and some video too, but I also decided to record sound. Later listening to what I had recorded, it occurred to me that I had a new project to work on. Here is the final result. Enjoy!

On Saturday, September 29th, protesters – inspired by the recent Occupy Wall Street uprising in New York City – set up camp on the lawns of City Hall in Downtown Los Angeles. Over the past week, the haphazardly organized group has grown to more than 300 campers and continues to grow.

Turning the lawns of City Hall into a stage for political debate, OccupyLA packs each day with workshops, classes, and discussion forums. The movement takes issue with corporate corruption and how that has influenced the political process and with the shift of wealth and favor towards the wealthiest 1% of the population.

“We have become of the corporations, by the corporations and for the corporations – people don’t matter anymore. I love our country, I just don’t like what we’ve become,” said protestor Anastasia Stewart, 78, who has been actively protesting with the occupants for the past four days.

Terry Marshall, a Music Therapy and Child Development major at California State University, Northridge camped over the weekend with a handful of her classmates. She said she believes that we (Americans) should have more of a say in what our government does and what goes on in the country. Marshall decided to camp because she is concerned with the state of the education system and believes the government should be putting more money into education.

“How can we expect kids to progress in this country without education?” said Marshall.

Since its inception in New York, the occupation movement has swept across the globe  and now includes up to 66 U.S. cities and several cities in Europe and Canada. Unlike its counterparts in New York and San Francisco, where protestors have cited multiple complaints of police brutality, the Los Angeles occupation has remained peaceful and received much support from the local police and officials.

Occupants have stated that they are not planning on vacating City Hall’s lawns anytime soon.