Day 29: "Hey, asshole mayor!"

A news van parked outside the mayor’s mansion

Tonite Evgenia and I went went to another “hey, asshole!” honking protest in front of the official mansion residence of Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti — a home that the Getty oil oligarch family gifted to the city for “public” use.

The COVID-19 lockdown has been going on for nearly a month now here in LA. I believe it’s day 29 today. Millions have lost their jobs and millions can’t make rent, but the city has done nothing to help. There are no ideas, no plans, and there is no action. As far as I can tell, politicians here have been hoping things will pass on their own — that the economic and housing crisis will somehow float past them. So they’re refusing to make any difficult decisions — especially because anything they do to positively help people is guaranteed to piss off their donor class. I mean, the city council voted down something as basic and simple as an eviction moratorium. That’s how regressive the politics are in ultra-liberal, progressive LA.

So a small group of activists, mostly from the Los Angeles Tenants Union, have been organizing these honking protests on an ongoing basis in front of the homes of various city politicians to make demands that they stop evictions, cancel rent payments, and house the homeless in empty hotel rooms. The central idea here is to make these politicians uncomfortable — all while observing social distancing rules. It’s clever and smart and Evgenia and I went to a couple of these already in the last couple of weeks, including one that ended with an angry Guy Fawkes neighbor trying to drench us with his garden hose.

This one didn’t have the same theatrics.

A convoy of maybe twenty cars showed up at Mayor Garcetti’s mansion and started circling the block, honking, and annoying the hell out of everyone in the neighborhood. As we kept making the loop, some of his neighbors came out to gawk at us from their fancy Hancock Park lawns with disapproval. The cops arrived ten minutes after we started and promptly began warning people that they’d give citations if people kept honking. When I wouldn’t stop, a cop flashed his light in my face. This is how this things play out when you’re protesting by car!

Anyway, it felt great to get out and yell at the window at our shitty politicians. People don’t do this nearly enough. Let me tell you, it’s much more satisfying that trolling people on Twitter or getting into a Facebook flame war. But as good as it felt, the problem is that there is no larger political organization and there is no real economic or political leverage. So the protest is really about venting anger and getting people together in the simplest way possible. But you gotta start somewhere.

The truth is that COVID-19 showed us just how fucked we are — and how totally illegitimate our ruling class is. However and whenever we “get through“ this pandemic, we’re gonna find ourselves even more fucked. Wealth will be more concentrated, there will be more poverty, more disease, and more homelessness. But we have no new politics to grasp on to, nor do we have any sort of political organization. We’re all atomized and flailing and the only politics floating around are vague notions of “socialism” and warmed over ideas about the New Deal. The future is gonna be painful for a lot of us. But that’s just the way is — and there is nothing in history that guarantees that things will get better soon, or ever. But we gotta try. What choice do we have?

Speaking of which — if you live in LA, you should come out to a car honking protest this Sunday in front of the mayor’s mansion. If nothing else, it’s good therapy.

—Yasha Levine

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