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A Report from the Los Angeles March

Timothy Kincaid

November 16th, 2008

Saturday was both exhilarating and annoying, encouraging and exhausting. What follows are some of my personal observations.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the police reported that between 10,000 to 12,000 of the 40,000 anticipated people attended the rally and march at City Hall. (Personally, I find the LA Times story disconcerting. You don’t have to have “balance” by repeatedly printing the opinions of the Yes on 8 Campaign Manager. Unless, of course, you’re going run opinions from gays every time you run a story on religion. Any why, oh why, did the Times’ videographer find the one and only drag queen – a Sister of Perpetual Indulgence – to focus half their video on?)

The Time’s count may be right, but it certainly felt like more and I heard reports of as many as 30,000 (which was also likely an over-exaggeration). Many of the participants were so far away that they couldn’t see the stage and could only just make out what the speakers were saying. And by my estimation it would be impossible to double the size of the crowd and fit it into the streets that were cleared.

There were a surprising number of straight folks there. I rode the subway with a young couple with a stroller sporting the sign, “my family doesn’t need protection from love”.

I couldn’t help but notice that those who showed up were overwhelmingly white or Latino. The lack of a strong black participation suggests that there is still disconnect in reaching the African American community, both gay and straight.

There was also a counter-protest consisting. The following isn’t the best picture (phone camera) but I think I got all five in the pic.

The day started with some inspirational speeches, but it soon morphed into politicians and “leaders” boring the socks off of you. Nonetheless the crowd was charged up and excited to be part of a national event. The mood was less about anger and more about resolve and determination. (Lisa Derrick has video at her site).

Eventually the march started. And everyone was excited for a while. We chanted “What do we want? Equal rights. When do we want them? Now” and merrily waved our signs.

But then a sense of uncertainty entered the march. Participants began to ask “where are we going?”

Downtown Los Angeles is pretty much dead on the weekends. So there was not that much hope for visibility anyway and we knew that disruption of traffic would be minimal. But it was troubling that the march route led from City Hall, down obscure back streets, across a freeway, and out of downtown in a route that seemed designed mostly to minimize the inconvenience of others.

Yet we all dutifully marched behind the glorified police golf cart.

The only time we saw anyone was briefly along historic Olvera St. and when we waved signs as we passed over the 101. (I will admit to feeling a rush when I heard the horns of semis blaring in support).

As we got further and further from Downtown, I suddenly had the sense that this march was less like a protest of injustice and more like the Pied Piper of Hamelin. The police marched all the protesting gays right out of the city.

Disbelief turned to incredulity when we finally ended up in a “park” that had no access to roads or pedestrian traffic or overlooking buildings. Complete invisibility. At the far end there was a stage set up so we could all enjoy some more speeches. Goody

The Cornfield (as this park is nicknamed) is not a lovely shaded green space shared by neighbors and community. It is a big flat dirt lot with no shade. A marcher next to me answered a call from someone back in the march as to where we were going, “Joshua Tree”. It may well have been a great site for a rock concert – so as not to disturb anyone – but it certainly wasn’t effective as a protest venue.

A woman next me looked in disgust, turned around and started chanting, “Take the march back to the city!” This seemed like a good plan to me – or certainly better than standing in the dirt in 90 degree weather listening to someone read a prepared message into a microphone – so I joined her chant. The two of us turned and immediately those around us started walking back out of the Cornfield. Soon, as best I could tell, the entire march had turned around.

Unfortunately, there wasn’t really anywhere to go. The police had reopened the streets and they took measures to corral the crowd onto the sidewalks. While this wasn’t effective, I did seem to lead to the group splintering into smaller marching groups in different directions.

Eventually, what should have been a very effective effort at visibility ended with most folks just going home. But by then it was 2:00 anyway and we were tired and hungry. As a friend said, “This could have ended well with them marching us through downtown in a circle and back to city hall for a final speech. Instead its just chaos and no one knows what they’re supposed to do.”

Some marchers indicated a desire to keep marching through Hollywood, but there didn’t seem to be cohesive leadership and the numbers had dwindled. Maybe they went, I don’t really know. And although I’m not sure, I think some may have stayed in the Cornfield to bake in the sun and listen to activists.

Nonetheless, I have to say that overall this event was a success. We did put on a show of unity and joined the national protest to let our neighbors know that we are not taking their vote on the 4th as a final answer. And that we will continue to fight until we have achieved equality under the law.

Comments

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Lisa Derrick
November 16th, 2008 | LINK

Thanks, Timothy, for the link! And for the great write up here. Boxturtle Bulletin is an awesome site!

The park was so like the Twilight Zone episode, where evil Billy Mumy puts people in “the Cornfield.” That’s what I kept thinking: “Oh noes, they’re putting us in the Cornfield.” However, considering the city absorbed all the costs of the cops, the street closures, permits, portapotties, etc ::shrug:: Though I would have preferred a short walk to a closer location and no more speeches. But them I am a lazy thing, and at least there were places to grab water along the way–and wow, the organizers did pull off something really freaking HUGE and all the participants–especially the crowd–made it so loving and hopeful and moving and inspirational.

It was great to see you and everyone, all the many thousands of us all, gay and straight, united for a common and greater good.

JoeSteel
November 16th, 2008 | LINK

I couldn’t agree with you more. The LA Times coverage (or lack thereof) was a complete disappointment. The planning behind this protest was patronizing. To suggest that we all protest to ourselves in a park, in the middle of nowhere, is ludicrous. When I heard the music and saw the stage, I turned around like everyone else. The Police golf cart ordered us to go back and protest in the park. Which caused someone to shout, “Fuck you!” I ended up just ditching as I watched everything fizzle.

Also, listening to the politicians was nothing short of irritating. I appreciate their support, but they were missing the point. The most moving speech was from that one daughter (unfortunately I don’t recall her name) talking about how Prop 8 made her feel like she didn’t exist. When the mayor of West Hollywood started to go in to his long winded speech everyone chanted “March!” but he tried to talk over them until he gave up.

If all those politicians wanted to take credit for this, they really should have tried to actually make the protest worthy of it’s cause. They look just as ineffectual and flaccid as they did before November 4th. Preaching to the choir does not help. People at “the top” don’t seem to get it.

Alex H
November 17th, 2008 | LINK

Thanks for reporting, Timothy!

I attended the rally and march in Los Angeles and me and my friends were wondering why everyone was turning around. At the beginning, we were pretty much at the front of the line but as we came around back to City Hall we stopped to get water and a snack.

As we rejoined the march and walked down to Chinatown, we saw people walking back and so we were confused. And then we saw a gang of cop cars with their sirens blasting heading down toward the park and that’s when we decided that the march was probably over.

I thought it was a great success and I was touched by the reactions that we got from people (bystanders) after the march had ended and we headed back to Hollywood.

kevin
November 17th, 2008 | LINK

I feel compelled to say that at the San Francisco rally, a strong African American (both straight and gay) was felt. Several straight AA ministers took the stage and railed against the bigotry of the anti-gay supporters of Prop 8 and made numerous comparisons between the struggle for equal rights between the straight African American community and the wider LGBT community. Also, I personally stood beside many lesbian and gay people of color, including black people, for most of the rally.

Maybe things are just different in San Francisco, but since Prop 8 passed, our marches and rallies have been extremely diverse, both racially, in gender, and (it must be said) many supportive straight allies.

I guess we’re just lucky that way?!

Timothy Kincaid
November 17th, 2008 | LINK

kevin,

I feel compelled to say that at the San Francisco rally, a strong African American (both straight and gay) was felt.

That is so very encouraging. I wonder if it’s because The City is so very small geographically that everyone has to work together.

I hope that our communities in LA and other places in the state find a way to communicate better. I know many of the leaders in the African American community get it, but I fear we are not reaching the average person.

Louie
November 17th, 2008 | LINK

Too bad the voter turn out wasn’t stronger in San Francisco county this year as it was in 2004.

Blair Slavin
November 17th, 2008 | LINK

I was in that march as well. It did seem to end without a real point. Supposedly we were to march around city hall and end up in some park for some kind of festival. But it ended for us near Phillipe’s Resturant. People would come to the end of a roped off area and no where else to go. Since there seemed to be no leader we went to the train station and took the Subway home. Was a great start, but a sad ending.

Though I still say, we have a double fight on our hands. The leaders of the No On 8 produced a totally lame campaign and did their best to not include any gay couples into the commercials to make it a personal thing. How much stronger and more powerful the commercials if people knew how much marriage means to us, the same way it means so much to them. But no. Seems like the No On 8 people were ashamed of Gay People and to keep us away. So we unfortunately have to fight for our rights both out in the public and amongst our own.

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