On February 4th, hundreds of anti-war demonstrators gathered at Olympic and Bundy in Santa Monica to picket two gas stations and leaflet cars at this busy intersection. The anti-war movement has introduced a fresh new boost to activism in this community whose city council has recently perpetrated assaults on the rights of the homeless population with increasingly oppressive ordinances.
Protesters began the demonstration at 4 PM and proceeded to cross the intersection with signs shouting anti-war chants and handing out literature to passersby and people in cars. A limitied police presence of approximately a dozen officers stood by and observed but there was no attempt to stop the continual parade
of demonstrators that slowed traffic until after 7PM.
A protester placed a "no war for oil" sign on the back window of a squad car. The officer in charge removed the sign and gave it back to the organizers. He then thanked the demonstrators for "keeping it peaceful"
and remarked that the February 15th demonstration will be "a big one".
This journalist from Seattle was amazed at the restraint
displayed by law enforcement at the scene. One individual was ticketed for obstructing traffic but there were no arrests. In post-WTO Seattle, this kind of event would have been surrounded by police in riot gear and I'm sure there would have been arrests for jaywalking, etc., although it must be noted that the demonstrators only crossed the street at the light. In the Emerald City, however, stragglers would surely have been harassed and taken away in handcuffs.
For some reason, the gas stations were closed and roped off with police tape. In effect, the Shell and Chevron representatives stopped selling gas, accomplishing what the protesters could have done only through organized civil disobedience.
The independent organizers were pleased at the turn out and the amount of support they receivd from drivers and pedestrians. This is a great example of what grassroots community activism can acheive in a few days with enough posters and leaflets. Organizers are now gearing up for the mass international protests on Feb. 15th.