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10/27 at Pershing Square

by Anna Kunkin Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2001 at 9:49 AM
annekunkin@earthlink.net

“I’ve never seen anything like this in my life!” exclaims one African-American man. “Never?” I ask. “No!” he says, “What’s it about?” “It’s against the war.” “Oh,” he nods. “That’s good. The war is bad.”

Peace Rally

October 27,2001

Anna Kunkin - Los Angeles, CA.

I’m on the L.A. Subway heading downtown towards the October 27th anti-war rally in Pershing Square, dubbed “Victory Square” last year during the Democratic Convention. I’m carrying one of the last bundles of the 1st. edition of ‘Peace News’, which I’ve been saving to hand out at this demo.

I look around at my fellow passengers: to my right two older plump Latina ladies, several tired and disinterested looking African American men, a couple of graying white men, and a few younger Latinos, all looking worn and used from many days of hard labor. Everybody has that glazed-over look in their eyes of hard working people taking a few private moments for themselves in the middle of a crowd. My ears perk up when I hear a youngish heavy-set Latino man say something to an elderly gentleman about Pershing Square.

“Oh!” I say, “Are you going to the peace rally?”

“Yeah,” he says, “I just heard about it this morning. I want to find out what’s going on.”

“Oh, Yes,” says the white haired gentleman, “ This war is nothing but a power grab by the government, and the L.A. Times is nothing but a war-mongering rag!”

The next thing I know there is a lively discussion about the war, and in the few minutes left before we arrive at our destination, it seems that everyone has something to say. I offer a copy of the Peace News to one person, and wind up handing them out to everyone in the car. The two Latina women tap me on the shoulder and ask me for a copy of the paper.

“This is very good,” they say, “thank you.”

I’m late, so instead of standing on the escalator I run up the stairs with my now open bundle of papers, and hurry into the square.

Pershing or “Victory” Square is an open space in the middle of downtown L.A., actually the only park-like space in the area, surrounded by some of the cooler funkier older buildings from a time when builders took pride in their creations. It’s a nice cool fall day, and the park is already full of people; some milling around, some passing out flyers, and some checking out the tables covered with political material. Peter is doing a brisk business selling the rainbow peace flags and buttons he has designed, and Sally is there as Lady Liberty.

I hear the familiar voice of Jim Lafferty from “The National Lawyer’s Guild” over the P.A. system, calling everyone to the center stage. He is jubilant. 3000 people is the official count he says. It doesn’t look like that many to me, but it’s a largish space and I’m not really that good at judging numbers.

Speakers include Don White of “CISPES,” The Reverend James Lawson, legendary civil rights leader and former head pastor at “Holman United Methodist Church,” Muffy Sunde of “Radical Women” and “The Freedom Socialist Party,” and Michael Feinstein, Mayor of Santa Monica and Member of “The Green Party.” They all give inspirational speeches, pushing the need to spread the word and bring more people into the movement to end the war.

Philip Wade of Sunset House leads the crowd in a slightly off-key odd metered version of “I Ain’t Gonna Study War No More,” and the local Aztec dance troupe performs a peace dance. Representatives of the Korean community in L.A. passionately proclaim their presence here today as a statement against U.S. bombing overseas. They are the victims of just this sort of thing, they proclaim, and they are here to tell us that bombing doesn’t just kill an enemy, it destroys an entire generation.

Our march is loud and boisterous. The lead truck plays music from “Rage Against The Machine.” Saeddang Sori, the Korean drum troupe, leads scores of marchers carrying signs with slogans both original and traditional: “Islam is not the enemy and war is not the answer,” says one, and “peace isn’t just a 60’s thing” is painted on a woman’s three wheeler wheel chair. A group of Muslim women wearing veils march behind a wide banner begging for peace and understanding. They are lovely and dignified and I etch their picture in my memory. The Aztec dance and drum troupe bring up the rear, so loud you can hear them for blocks.

I am fascinated by what seems like thousands of people lining the busy downtown sidewalks, stopped in their tracks by this crazy spectacle. I have to find out what they think and I record their responses on my mini-disk recorder.

“I’ve never seen anything like this in my life!” exclaims one African-American man.

“Never?” I ask.

“No!” he says, “What’s it about?”

“It’s against the war.”

“Oh,” he nods. “That’s good. The war is bad.”

“ I think what you are all doing is good,” says Armando from Sonora, Mexico. “Bombing isn’t going to solve anything.”

“I think this is all crazy and disorganized,” says one young woman, “what’s all this drumming about?”

“Drumming is the heartbeat of life,” I yell above the noise, “it’s perfect.” She shakes her head as I run off to catch the march and talk to the next person.

A few of the responses I get are negative, but the overwhelming response of the working people in the streets of Downtown L.A, the people who understand, because they are poor, who really will be hurt and affected by this war, is support for the day’s actions.

Back at Pershing Square, several rock bands end the day’s event, along with a performance by the “Free Radicals” affinity group who staged a “death act.” Sprawled on the ground covered in blood and torn clothing, they represent the dead and wounded in Afghanistan; a sight blacked out of mainstream media.

Sponsored by “The Los Angeles/Orange County Coalition To Stop The War” and “The Coalition For World Peace,” Saturday’s demonstration was one of over 135 held in cities across the U.S. and around the world.

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