LOS ANGELES, 5 October 2006--Or was it 1965? As part of a massive
nationwide protest, World Can't Wait assembled on 6th and Olive for a march up
Broadway to the Federal Building to demand the overthrow of the administration
of the U.S. government. Along the way, they joined with the March 25
Coalition, opposing that administration's persecution of immigrants.
It was a display of unity between immigrants of all ages and mostly young
Black and white people echoing the 1960's crossover between youthful anti-war
activists and civil rights fighters: tenuous, yes; charged, yes; and, under it
all, ultimately right. It was a privilege and a challenge to take part, if
even for a couple of hours, in this conjuncture that might herald an alliance
that the 60's generation never managed to solidify.
At 2:30 p.m. a traffic control officer said that only a couple of handfuls of
Bush opponents were listening to Tom Morello on the downtown corner. By
3:00 p.m., a scant 500 people had assembled, and I was busy thinking about how
to write about the few brave souls who were willing to call out the Bush
regime. After a few false starts to move the bicyclists to the lead, to
find bearers for the flag-draped "coffins," the marchers turned the
corner to Broadway, hollering out to pedestrians, "No more lies, no more
hate: drive out Bush--the world can't wait!" A red and black
banner led the way, proclaiming simply, "Katrina."
Event organizers bullhorned from their truck, "Move, Bush! Get out the
way. Get out the way, Bush! Get out the way!" The crowd, louder,
joined them. Code Pink, in even more hot pink than usual, brought up
the rear with their banner and a pink VW bus. Then a pair of indigenous
dancers with their drummer were in their midst.
A few blocks further, and older people seemed to have infiltrated the
crowd. One woman, dressed in green, held a sign with a picture of the
statue of liberty shot in the heart and asking, "Who killed
liberty?" A multicultural crew of middle-aged women were walking
arm-in-arm. A pair of younger, bandana-ed anarchists giggled when someone
commented that they were a cute couple. A contingent of African-Americans
appeared, drumming and chanting, "Ain't no power like the power of the
people, and the power of the people won't stop!" Even some of the older crew bobbed and skipped just a bit to the rhythm. Photographers
stopped for a pair of masked Bushes, one in a blood-stained white dress and one
holding a sign that said "Terrorist" and pointing to himself. A
dozen construction workers hung out of the windows of a building under
renovation, many wrapping bandanas over their faces, and waved support to the
I wasn't sure when, but somewhere along the way, the March 25 group hooked
up. The marchers were calling out, "Who's world? Our
world!" as we crossed the 110 highway. As I walked the block across
Arcadia, I glanced behind me--the line stretched down the block and back over
the highway. Ahead, more people jammed the Main Street overpass and
beyond. On the other side of the the 110 at Aliso, the crew of nurses who were
protesting the Governor held up their banner: "5 de Octubre! El mundo no
At 5:00 p.m., an organizer estimated the crowd at two thousand to twenty-five hundred,
and anticipated more were on the way.
The Federal Building was guarded by a couple dozen cops, way overdressed in
their riot gear and plastic shields. A 911 Truth group tried to
convert them, and a cluster of anarchists taunted them, next to the twenty
symbolic coffins, carefully laid in front of the steps. On the stage,
Political Power of Hip Hop provided the beat until the Reverend Richard Meri Ka
Ra Byrd took the stage and confessed, "Our generation has failed
you." Then he called on the crowd: "We're going to make the change
by taking to the streets in massive numbers. Drive out the Bush
regime!" A World Can't Wait spokesperson announced that 108 protests
were happening in Republican states alone, and Canada was hosting eleven more, all
determined to end Bush's reign. The crowd roared.
Then Ed Asner, outspoken radical inscribed in TV culture as Lou Grant, took
the stage to read the World
Can't Wait Call, the Call read across the continent: "People look
at all this and think of Hitler - and they are right to do so. . . . We must act
now; the future is in the balance. . . . Silence and paralysis
are not acceptable. . . . the whole disastrous course of this
Bush regime must be stopped. . . .
"We must, and can, aim to create a political situation where the Bush
regime's program is repudiated, where Bush himself is driven from office, and
where the whole direction he has been taking society is reversed. We, in our
millions, must and can take responsibility to change the course of
history. . . . If we speak the truth, they will try to silence
us. If we act, they will try to stop us. But we speak for the majority, here and
around the world . . . We are not going to stop.
"The future is unwritten. Which one we get is up to us." Asner
Michelle Phillips of the Sixties band The Mamas and the Papas was repeating
the call in Spanish as I reluctantly walked away. Other speakers were
scheduled to follow, but I had an appointment.
I was born too late to
witness the inception of the last Revolution, but I imagined it must have been
something like this: a few hundred, then a few thousand brave souls here and
there across the country, and ultimately millions, who understood that the only way out was through the
darkness, confronting it, naming it, and demanding that it end.