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Hundreds march in LA in economic protests

By Robert Jablon

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, Oct. 6 2011 4:52 p.m. MDT

Police block protesters fron the enterance to a Bank of America branch in downtown Los Angeles, Thursday, Oct. 6, 2011.

Chris Carlson, Associated Press

LOS ANGELES — Nearly a dozen people were arrested for trespassing Thursday during a sit-in at a Bank of America, ending a downtown march by hundreds of people sympathetic to New York's Wall Street demonstrators.

The people were handcuffed and taken to police vans for booking after sitting down in the bank lobby, police Cmdr. Blake Chow said.

"The bank manager and employees asked them to leave. They refused to do so" and police were called, Chow said.

The mostly middle-aged protesters did not resist. A crowd of other demonstrators cheered as each man and woman was led away in plastic handcuffs.

The civil disobedience was the finale to a 2½-hour protest against perceived corporate wrongdoing and the government bank bailout. At its peak, more than 500 labor union members, housing activists, students and anti-corporate protesters marched through the streets of downtown, past bank skyscrapers and through plazas where pin-striped financial district employees were eating lunch.

Demonstrators banged drums, hoisted signs and chanted, "Banks got bailed out — we got sold out." But the mood seemed one of exuberance, not rage, and police who shadowed the march made no effort to interfere. Bystanders snapped photos on their cell phones as if the protest was a Hollywood film shoot.

It was a far cry from the continuing demonstrations in lower Manhattan, where thousands of protesters have marched and hundreds have been arrested in past days.

The Los Angeles demonstrators said they were in sympathy with their Wall Street counterparts. They said they want banks and other corporations to pay more taxes.

"The banks need to pay their fair share," said Roslyn Jones, 47, of Inglewood. "Their profits are in the billions of dollars and people are losing their homes.

"I'm having to take in some of my family because their home is in foreclosure," she said.

Protesters felt an affinity with those demonstrating for other causes, from anti-government tea party activists to those involved in the so-called "Arab spring," said Sam Resnick, a 20-year-old college student from Pasadena.

"People are angry and not knowing what to do about it," he said.

Some of the demonstrators were from Occupy L.A., a grassroots group of fewer than 100 people that pitched tents and camped out for a week on City Hall lawns. Those protesters intend to remain another month and may stay until winter, said Cole Gillette, 21, a grocery clerk and college psychology major from Rancho Santa Margarita.

The marchers also included scores of people bused in by various labor unions, which led observer Andrew Breitbart to smell conspiracy.

The conservative blogger was videotaping the march and argued that the union involvement meant the demonstration had been "astroturfed" — that is, manufactured to give the false appearance that it was a public groundswell.

The demonstrators also had the wrong target, he argued.

"The government policies created this financial mess and now they're blaming the banks," he said. "There's a lot of emotionalism."

Marc Loge, director of public relations for the Wilshire Grand hotel, said he and nearly 500 other employees are being laid off in the next few months as the hotel closes and rebuilds.

Loge said he bought a home last year and now could find himself in danger of losing it.

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