Bethania Palma Markus, a former reporter for the LANG papers east of L.A., wrote in the San Gabriel Valley Tribune in November about her new life as an activist in the Occupy LA camp outside City Hall. Last weekend, she was one of the Occupiers who returned to City Hall, climbed over the fence that's been up since the camp was evicted, and was arrested. She pleaded no contest to trespassing, was placed on 18 months probation and ordered to do community service. In a piece for LAist, she writes about her reasons for going political and her experiences in the justice system. Excerpt:
It has become pretty common knowledge amongst Occupy L.A. participants that City Attorney Carmen Trutanich is going for the jugular in dealing with us, and that was painfully clear for me personally as events unfolded over the weekend. My friends and I were arrested on misdemeanor trespassing charges, which I was told by multiple sources would normally require to a cite-and-release by officers.
But as I was being booked at Metro 77, a city jail on Broadway and 77th Street in South Central, the officer told me my bail would be $5,000. He quickly added this was not the decision of anyone at the station.
Four of us were held for 48 hours on $5,000 bail and denied release upon promise to appear for arraignment, as is common practice for minor offenses by people without rap sheets. This same treatment was meted out to the hundreds arrested on the night of the raid. It seems to be a case of extra-judicial punishment reserved specially for Occupy L.A. participants. We seemed to be the city of L.A.'s very own political prisoners.
None of the women I met in jail did anything I thought warranted jail time. Some were prostitutes who said they had no other way to make ends meet. Others were mentally ill and homeless. One woman simply had too many unpaid tickets. Another told me that current economic conditions are dictating the desperate actions people are taking that land them in jail. It rang true.
Previously at LA Observed:
City Attorney tallies up Occupy LA prosecutions
Photo of Palma Markus: San Gabriel Valley Tribune