Anti-HR4437 March 3/25/06

Downtown Los Angeles

Today, on a fine overcast Saturday morning, a sampling of the Los Angeles population, mostly those that make up the invisible majority, came out to Downtown LA to  show their opposition to the latest anti-immigrant bill that the jerks in Washington are contemplating.  The police are estimating over 500,000 so you know that there were many more, closer to a million people at the march. That's a fucking huge protest with significant implications. Which of course means that KCAL 9 will lead with a story about the UCLA basketball team making it to the "Final Four"; then it's 1/2 a million people protested in LA; followed up by a "counter protest" of 20 right-wing mini-men in some desolate park in Temecula; and Buck Owens died. And they wonder why nobody gives a shit about their stupid "news".

It's incredible how hard the güero media has to turn away just to ignore the mass of people that make up this city. Though these people are all around you it's easier to think of them as scenery, like some random dog barking at a distance, no need to care about what they do. But that changes in an instant when you want your plate of food, your car washed promptly, the trash emptied from your lonely cubicle, then these invisibles matter.  You'll still make movies about an LA where Mexicans don't exist, further a public discourse in which their concerns are inconsequential, and continue to pass laws to make life more miserable. Can we expect anything else? Because these people mean nothing to you, they've decided you mean nothing to them. There is a large infrastructure that supports this invisible mass and they get by fine without you, that's why you are surprised when all of a sudden a million people show up on the streets to voice their discontent. If the 17 guys on the bruin basketball team mean more than the block of a million people you see on a daily basis, then it's obvious this relationship is in trouble. Where that will lead is still undecided, but after today, it's unlikely that the Latino majority is going to let themselves get screwed over. 

Below is a collection of photos and comments by Ani and EL CHAVO!

Here is a description of the days events from Ani :

The Spanish language radio and TV stations have been promoting 'La Gran Marcha' for weeks. They give out ten suggestions for attendees of the march, number one is something like “portense bien!”

The day before the march, thousands of kids all over LA and outlying counties stage walkouts. In Huntington Park, Bell and South Gate, thousands go from school to school picking up other students. Some students make it out despite the schools being lockdown (yes, the same kind of lockdowns they have in prisons). Residents and business owners offer the kids support and free drinks for their walkout efforts. Many found out about the walkout call through myspace bulletins. I even got one myself.

The Spanish language TV is filled with stories about the upcoming march. In one segment they interview immigrants who are not Latino about the march. None of them are aware of the march except for a Korean store owner. One European immigrant guy walks away in disgust from the Latina reporter when she asks if he supports the march.

The day of the march

Around 9:15, we notice the bus stop across the street from our house has filled up with marchers dressed in white shirts. The radio stations asked folks to dress in white to represent 'peace.' Unfortunately, the bus passes them by as it is already filled with marchers heading downtown.

Impromptu carpooling: Our neighbors loaded their van with waiting bus stop marchers. I see other people, strangers, carpooling and picking folks up at bus stops and on the streets.

The Metro Gold Line is packed. People take the train in the opposite direction of the march so they can get on at earlier stops. We end up taking the car because we can't get on the crowded buses or trains. Folks everywhere in the street wearing white. I find out later, many decided to walk miles downtown when public transportation became unavailable.

Walking to the march from Chinatown. A sense of excitement, people already chanting "Si, Se Puede." People in white everywhere in downtown, streaming towards City Hall.

The City Hall rally point is already filled with people who have just arrived like us. The first marchers from the Broadway/Olympic starting point have barely arrived.

Almost everyone in the march is Latino. Mexican, Salvadoran, Guatemalan and Honduran flags waving everywhere. Other countries not really represented. American flags seem to be the flag of choice thanks to the recommendation of the Spanish language radio. In fact, I've never seen so many American flags, it was kinda disconcerting.

The marchers run the gamut of Los Angeles Latino culture: senoras, chuntaros, vaqueros, chispics, greasers, bettys, cholos, veteranos, Xicanos, Mexicas, the young girls who wear rubberbands on the hems of their jeans and tons of punks decked out black bloc style. There are people of all ages, senior couples, families with strollers, workers in their chef's frocks..

We make a plan to wander around and try to move in the opposite direction of the march to get somewhat to the front and get an idea of the amount of people marching.

Almost impossible to walk down Broadway through the march. We walk up to Hill St and are surprised to find miles of marchers walking up Hill. Cut through to Spring St. Although, the streets are thick with people, everyone is very friendly and respectable. No one complains as we push our way through the crowds. Marchers have taken over Spring St, it's just as crowded as the main march on Broadway. People spill down 2nd St. towards Main St.. Cars and buses are trapped by thousands of people moving around them. I ask one man how long he's been stuck in his car and he says "una hora."

Two policeman make a feeble attempt at keeping the crowd from spilling onto Main St. When the light turns green, a great uproar from the crowd comes up and everyone surges forward down Main St. The cops lose.

As the marchers move forward simultaneously down Main, Spring, Broadway and Hill they cheer as they pass and see each other through the side streets. The marchers probably have no idea how many folks are both behind them and in front of them already. On every street marchers stretch back for miles. There must be at least a million people in the streets.

Later I talk to to my Chilango stepdad, he arrived at the Broadway/Olympic starting point at 8am but with such a huge crowd didn't get into the line to march until 11am. He said frustrated people got tired of waiting and decided to take over the streets parallel to Broadway.

On Spring St, a group of young guys get the march to stop and crouch down. They then do a block long Mexican Wave. They did this twice and then take off running.

Everywhere there are chants of "Si, Se Puede" and "El Pueblo Unido , Jamas Sera Vencido." While there are some of the pre-printed signs made by the organizers, most carry homemade signs or have written messages on their white t-shirts. Many of the signs say things like “We are not criminals, we come here to work” One teenager had written on his shirt in cholo scrawl “ Aqui estemas, y no nos vamos/ Si nos sacamos, NOS REGRESAMOS!” That was one of my favorites 'cause it's so true!

Everyone seems so happy, proud and amazed at the amount of people who have shown up for the march.

Not sure where all the marchers will end up. There is no more room by this time at the City Hall Rally point.

On Hill St, marchers are moving en masse back and forth. A Korean wedding party passes, the bride and groom moving right through the crowd. Everyone stops and lets them pass while chanting "Beso!Beso!" and then in English when they realize they probably don't understand Spanish "Kiss her! Kiss her!" The bride looks totally overwhelmed and doesn't dare look up. Everyone else is in such a joyous mood, they don't seem to notice.

From up on Grand Ave, two white women leaving Disney Hall view the thousands of people at the rally point and exclaim "Wow, look at the sea of white!"

Folks are already leaving and yet thousands are still marching. Back near City Hall the FMLN arrives playing some good cumbia. The crowd follows them as they break away from the direction of the march but in the end they have nowhere to go. There are masses of people everywhere. Everywhere is the march, it doesn't matter anymore.

Back at the rally area, young guys playing drums start a small dance session. A lady says to me "ya van a poner el party."

Hardly any cops around except behind their "Command Center" which is one cordoned off block of street smack in the middle of the march route.

Run into some friends around 2:30 pm, they've just gotten there on the bus. They say folks are still leaving East LA on packed buses on their way downtown and there are busloads of marchers on the buses back too.

It's 3pm and hundreds of people arrive out of nowhere with banners, flags and chanting. It's the perpetual march!

As we are leaving towards Chinatown, a great roar of people and cars can be heard. We are treated to the amazing sight of thousands of people surrounding the freeway overpasses, waving flags and cheering the cars driving below. The cars respond by honking horns, waving their flags and white t-shirts out the windows. Some cars do hydraulic jumps and other tricks. Truck drivers get the most cheers with their blaring horns. Arms, hands and heads pop out from car windows and sunroofs screaming and yelling in support. It seems as if all the drivers are in support.

Olvera street is packed, the business owners must be racking in the cash.

The bus stops are packed with folks trying to get back to East LA. We make the long trek back to our car. We're exhausted and emotional, barely able to take in the experience of the day.

EL CHAVO! submits the following:

The size of the crowd is largely due to the efforts of Piolin and other local radio personalities asking for their listeners to show up, spanish language radio and tv were talking about this march in-depth and non-stop. The english language stations mentioned it only after the Friday school walkouts, they were busy just trying to catch up!

The front page of the Saturday editon of La Opinion, the spanish language newspaper in LA, headlines with "A las calles!", which literally means "To the streets!" That's pretty amazing, a local paper actually telling its readers to take to the streets. I bet the LA Times will do the same  when the 2007 protest against the Britney Spears baby abduction takes place, that seems about right.

Showing up to the march at around 10:30am, from the direction of the end point and rally.

There's already a bunch of people at the end of the march.

Looking out at Broadway from Grand Central Market, the street is super packed.

"We didn't cross the borders, they crossed us" and "Racist Lou Dobbs". People were speaking up.

Somebody questions the assumption that Mexicans are foreigners in LA.

The RCP passed out a bunch of stickers. Avakian was nowhere to be seen.

These cars and buses were unfortunately caught up in the middle of the march, they got stuck in foot traffiic. I bet some of them hate the beaners now.

The 2 cops at this intersection kept trying to hold back a sea of people from going where they wanted to go.

Of course, they lost.

Protester got stuck in traffic, why not show off the ride?

This is a shot of the March on Spring St, not the major one on Broadway. When the spillover is this much you know it's huge!
Right around here  some of the organizers did a cool Mexican wave, here's a clip.

Back up on Broadway, the street was still jammed.

Looking towards Broadway.

It's a bad shot but behind the man in the baby-blue cap is a Korean couple about to tie the knot.  They seemed to be puzzled by all the Latinos crowding the street, the marchers tried to encourage them with chants of "Beso, Beso".

A view from Hill and 2nd. Here's a video clip as well.

And then a view from Hill and 1st.

Security at Disney Hall were worried because of the rumors that some of the protesters were planning to storm the building.  The gathering crowd disbanded acknowledging that there should be a place for Crap culture, at least for the time being.

Some guy was showing off his pair of Brinco shoes, mighty handy to have when you are jumping the border.

This is a good snapshot of the LA I know. Feathers and all.

Qvo cabron, why are you taking my picture?

Senoras taking a break.

Mexican umbrella.

Time for a drink!

A group of people started up a dance circle, check out the clip here.

Puppets of Diego Rivera and Frida Khalo, kinda freaky but interesting.

At Spring and 1st, the cops decided to set up a command post. These were the nicest cops you'll ever see, broadcasting announcements about what they were about to do, telling the crowd that the numbers were massive but that they've been very peaceful, an exemplary demonstration. Seems to me that the cops were scared. It was obvious they were completely ill-prepared for the amount of people that showed up, so the tactic of good-cop was the only real option.  Their usual heavy-handed approach would have only instigated the crowd into a direction they would not be able to control. Smart move for the chota.

Even pseudo-wrestlers came out in support.

The Fox entertainment channel came out to spin the event, these two vatos made sure to voice their opposition to the liars.

After the march had ended, a bunch of people turned up at the bridges above the Hollywood frwy to voice their concerns. This was the best part of the protest, an innovative way to include the car culture with the street protests. I loved the sign you can see here: "After I built your home and growed your food, Why do you treat me like a criminal?"  See a video clip here.

The crowd took over 4 bridges to wave banners and flags, this caused many of the cars to slow down to honk in support or merely to take pictures. This was definitely more exciting than the march, and it proves that LA can still innovate new protest tactics that make sense to the city.

This sign was cool: "I'm a Bean"  The other side read "Supreme Bean".