I walked over to my friend Alex Schaffer's pad in lovely downtown, Los Angeles a few nights before the Rose Bowl. The purpose of the visit was to see him putting the finishing touches on "Big Bernie " a colossal but friendly looking manned puppet of the democratic candidate for president Bernie Sanders.
After shooting a few pics and quaffing a brew I got him to agree to take me along the day of the parade. Bright and early.
New years day morning found me at 5 am riding with Alex and his partner Dulcinea, bleary eyed and shivering to the downtown Dennys where I met other Bernie supporters. Breakfast was consumed and we began to roll out when Carlos Marroquin arrived. Carlos has become a prime organizer for the Sanders campaign here in Southern California. He started his activism during the glory days of the Occupy movement where he founded Occupy Fights Foreclosures, which has been one of the most effective and long lasting of any of the offshoots of that movement.
The final group met in a small park near the back of the parade. It was pretty cold for SoCal but the enthusiasm for the candidate was high amongst the marchers. There seemed to be a mix of citizens from regular working folks to more regular working folks. Okay, there were some moderately marginal marchers but in the long run it seemed like a solid phalanx of middle class working people were manning the sails of the Sanders message.
Alex Schaffer who is a local artist known for his burning bank paintings and an alter ego he calls Zirp the US Economy Clown, unpacked his big Bernie and after a few adjustments had him up and walking. The people then took up their signs and posters like cudgels for democracy and marched into the parade right behind some flag waving cowboys on horseback and a pretty good float with Jesus standing on it looking very approachable.
The marchers rounded the corner to the reviewing stands to mostly cheers from the thousands assembled. Big Bernie and other Bernie visages cheered on the crowd while Mr. Marroquin tried to keep order in the march and simultaneously giving interviews on Bernies' views to the pressfolk that were tagging along in the throng.
Just as everything was going nicely, offshoots of the Westboro Church ( God Hates Fags ) crowd tried to get in front of the Sanders marchers and steal their photo opportunities.. Sanders supporters tried to shoo them away but probably due to their decent upbringings and the Westboro's tendency to be highly muscled…... the shooing was ignored. Eventually though, they drifted off and harassed other people.
The marchers grew in number along the parade route until perhaps 700 people or so were involved. The signage held by the Bernie supporters referenced his stance on closing corporate loopholes, breaking up the big banks, infrastructure investment, a constitutional amendment on Citizens United, increasing college affordability, expanding social security and medicare, investing in alternative energy sources, living wage adjustments and a host of other concerns of the 99 percent.
The parade route was about 6 miles long and the day ended with a tired but happy group of citizens who had networked and coalesced into a more potent force than they had been pre- Bernie.
There was real hope in the air for their tempered champion.
A hope they all seem to feel is grounded in the common sense of the common people.
The Sanders campaign is running ahead in some poles at this time.
Here come the primaries.