By the time we got off the Metro at the Little Tokyo stop this afternoon and walked the several blocks to City Hall, the "Occupy LA" protestors had already marched over from their gathering place at Pershing Square that morning and taken up residence on the lawn.
Familiar voices -- Ron Kovic's and Marcy Winograd's -- exhorted the gathering as we arrived, followed by other, younger voices we did not recognize. The crowd -- we heard estimates as high as 3,000 for various times during the day -- was mostly younger, in their twenties and thirties, with only a sprinkling of the graybeards so prevalent at most progressive political events we attend around town.
On the verges of the gathering, vendors sold bacon-wrapped hotdogs and sodas and bottled water. John Amato from "Crook & Liars" distributed boxes of free pizza. We passed a drumming circle, guitarists gone quiet in the day's growing heat, and groups of comrades laying out their sleeping bags where apparently they intended to spend the night.
The mood was both festive and earnest, with one third the crowd chronicling the proceedings with their cameras, the second third looking for a bit of shade on a warmish Los Angeles afternoon, and the rest holding a disparate array of mostly hand-painted protest signs:
- "We Need a Revolution"
- "Unjust, Unfair, War, Corruption, Greed No More"
- "It's Not A Crisis, It's a Scam"
- "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised"
- "What Happened to the Middle Class?"
- "We Are the 99%"
- "Venceremos: We Will Win"
- "Do I Look Illegal"
According to its organizers, "Occupy LA" is part of nationwide effort to focus attention on a broad range of woes afflicting most Americans: high unemployment, cuts in educational spending, wars that never end, health care out of reach for many, and a sense that the wealthy are doing mighty fine when so many Americans are hurting.
On a day when 500 "Occupy Wall Street" protestors were arrested for blocking traffic on New York City's Brooklyn Bridge, the scattering of Los Angeles police officers present took a decidedly low-key, almost amiable stance, nodding and greeting protestors who looked their way. One officer, blond and fit, called out "My man," when I nodded at him. Others made a point of catching the eyes of passersby and smiling.
Worn out from the heat and noise, we left the protest to younger, heartier souls after several hours and made our way back to the Metro stop. Along the way, we stumbled on a delightful Japanese restaurant called "The Fat Spoon" in Little Tokyo, where our friend Lauren Steiner, her son, and their new pet dog joined us thanks to the marvel of navigation apps on cellphones.
Which is to say, you wonder if gatherings like this can lead to anything. No doubt, the country needs dramatic improvement on all the fronts that brought these people together on such a pleasant Southern California fall day. And no doubt the people present had their hearts in all the right places.
But the forces arrayed against them -- us -- are powerful indeed. We may have the numbers -- we may indeed be the 99 percent folks were chanting about today -- but they've got the money to match our numbers. And we haven't figured out how to buy our political leaders with numbers.
But then you look at what happened in Madison, Wisconsin, this past winter and you take heart. Maybe, just maybe, something could grow from gatherings like today's.
Editor, LA Progressive