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Rookie's view from Los Angeles

by MattyHsu Sunday, Jan. 12, 2003 at 6:35 PM

A rookie's-eye-view of the Jan 11 Los Angeles protest. It's all about coming together.

This was my first protest.

I arrived at 10:00AM at the Carl's Jr. at Olympic and Main to meet other IMC'ers--ones who knew what they were doing. There were reds in the back corner already having their own meeting. The IMC'ers showed up, and I was briefed on interviewing techniques.

I wanted to interview lots of people so I could write some kind of article somewhere about the protest. I make a lousy interviewer. I failed miserably at finding people to interview. That's hard to do when you're surrounded by between four thousand and twenty thousand people (depending on where you get your estimate).

At 11:13, I talked to Jane Koch, her daughter, and her daughter's two twin daughters, all decked out and ready to march to the federal building. Activism was born and bred into this family. Three generations of protestors stood before me, all women, and all excited to be there.

"There's always hope. You just gotta give peace a chance," said the eleven-year-old Bea. Jane Koch lacked no enthusiasm against any notions one might have of tired eighty-year-old women. She protests every Friday at Sunset and Virgil.

Her daughter is looking for a buddy to accompany her to San Francisco on the 18th.

I talked to Laurence from Southwestern University. He wore a neon green baseball cap that identified him as a member of the National Lawyers' Guild as he stood with his accomplices between a small contingent of police and the moving swarm of protestors.

He was there to observe--to make sure the police didn't even think they could get away with attacking protestors or wrongfully arresting them without embarrassing lawsuits backed by the testimony of legal observers watching all their moves at all times.

I talked to my friends, the ones I dragged out from UCLA with a lot of preaching and teaching. Nothing new to be learned there. We had already kicked around our ideas and knew where we each stood. Interviewing my friends would be cheating anyway.

The UCLA socialist organizations showed up--drums and vocal chords ready. I thought it'd be cheating to interview them too.

I thought about talking to the veterans against war, the ones with the military caps, or the one with a shirt that said "Ex-marine against war." I just raised a fist in solidarity and smiled.

I thought about talking to the senior citizens, the ones in the wheelchairs, or the ones just blending in as the chants of "No blood for oil! Oil's not worth dying for!" sprang up.

I could have talked to the communists, the socialists, the libertarians, the anarchists, the man in blood-soaked army fatigues with a flag wrapped around his face.

Anyone shouting "Peace now!" would have made a good interviewee, and there were lots of those.

I could have talked to the people along the sidewalk clapping, watching with curious eyes, cheering along to the beat of one of the drummers hiding in the stream of the march.

Then there were the posters with catchy slogans, caricatures of our unelected president and his cronies, Spanish declarations against war. There were people holding those signs, and they would've talked to me, probably, if I could catch them in between chants and cheers. Sometimes people would all start yelling at once for no reason and it would spread down the street in all directions.

I asked a police officer to talk to me, but he said they weren't allowed to talk. I took a picture of him instead.

I took a picture of two other police officers standing around, guarding some building. She was hiding a smile as the protestors went by; his jaw was stiff and unforgiving.

I wanted to know how they felt about the war, but I didn't ask them, and I couldn't have asked the officers standing on the bridge that arched over us as we neared the federal building. But they waved back if you waved and smiled.

I could've interviewed the man passing out peace stickers to everyone or the Middle Eastern gent cheerleading the front of the march with the Iraqi flag, but I didn't want to disturb his important function.

The guys in black with black bandanas around their mouths and black sunglasses refused to even speak. They just shook their heads at me before disappearing in the crowd.

I could've interviewed the LaRouche people who nearly started a nasty fight before the march even started, but they were busy labeling everyone fascists with their bullhorn.

Slash from Guns 'N' Roses was at the protest.

I could've talked to representatives from A.N.S.W.E.R. or the college kids beating drums for Not In Our Name.

The three Latino guys running through the protest with a bullhorn trying to get people chanting would've made good subjects. They were "fired up" and they let everyone know it.

There were a lot of couples too. A lot of people brought their kids along to add to the head count. I took a picture of an incredibly cute shoulder-mounted baby holding a miniature "No war" sign.

I recognized the poet laureate from Leimert Park doing an interview with someone, but I forgot his name. But he was there.

There were a lot of students.

And a lot of senior citizens.

I saw a lot of twenty-somethings.

And thirty-somethings.

Black people.

And forty-somethings.

White people.

Some fifty-somethings.

Asian people.


Middle Eastern people.

Latino people.

There were a lot of plain people there, and they were more than happy to cheer and dump money into donation barrels for this cause.

I don't think I saw many Republicans there, but then I didn't bother asking.

Four thousand marchers, says the LAPD, ten thousand say the event organizers, twenty thousand say some from IMC. Whether the numbers are inflated or deflated, there were people today--enough to give Los Angeles more traffic, give the police something to do, and give voice to the millions of dissatisfied Americans living in an insane world.

I didn't see any windows smashed or see the police attack anyone. They never had reason to don their riot helmets and whip out the batons. Some of them seemed downright sympathetic with us.

I wish I could've interviewed them. I wish I had interviewed more people today.

But I didn't. I was too distracted.

I was too busy cheering and chanting and waving my sign like everyone else. It felt too good to chant and yell. It was too relieving to be around people who, though they probably wouldn't agree with me about everything or maybe anything else, were at least agreeing with me on this.

They didn't want a war. They don't want a war. I didn't want a war. I don't want a war.

Now the world knows it, and it feels good.

You should try it some time.
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by first-time-poster Sunday, Jan. 12, 2003 at 6:57 PM

Great article. Just a note on todays march:
1. The pacing and rythmn of the march could have been better: the long delay at the start (arrive 11am leave 11:48am) and the frequent stops by the (brilliant) Azetc dancers and (not so brilliant) leninoid groups created a sense of boredom. I know it's hard to get this all together, but it'd be better if the dancer were in bigger spaces where more than the 50 immediately adjacent people could see them. The rest of us were just standing there listening to people having fun somewhere up ahead.

2. Obviously some sort of method of estimating crowd numbers that can be defended should be tried. How do people make estimates? Count the numbers passing in front of a point for a minute and then extrapoliate? It would be good to have an easily explainable and reputable method. I know there were well more than 3000 people visible when we came down towards the stage area.

3. The speeches at the end lost a lot of people, the crowd thinned dramatically. Perhaps that's good: everyone on the march already knows why they're there and don't need to be preached at.

4. I wasn't too keen on the touting for money. Who was I giving money to in the buckets? ANSWER? IAC? Is the money going to be spent ONLY on anti-Iraqi Assault marches or is it going to also be used for Workers World Party purposes? It felf like a bit of hard sell and although I gave I was reluctant. Although I agree with IAC/WWP on the _specific_ issue of war on Iraq I sure as hell don't agree with them on many other things. Also, why does the protest cost money? The mega-hailer-at-the-buckets was claiming that the "organizers" were $10,000 in the hole for this protest. Why? Did the port-a-loos and sound-systems cost that much or do we now have to pay to protest in this country?

Anyway, great to see so many people out telling Bush that he can stick his Rumsfeld up his Ashcroft. Thanks everyone for coming out today.
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by comment Sunday, Jan. 12, 2003 at 7:04 PM

hmm, where'd it go?
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by I Was There 2 Sunday, Jan. 12, 2003 at 7:25 PM

Agree with LTP, point 4. re: requests for money.

It was over emphasized and vague. Give Now. No suggestions for later or alternative methods to contribute. I think it detracted from the spirit and the energy, but I gave, too.
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Couldn't Make it.

by Gary Rumor Sunday, Jan. 12, 2003 at 7:43 PM

I was on my way with a friend when a kamakazi driver ran a stop sign and smashed into my car. I had to spend the rest of the afternoon dealing with that. Was there a Black Block of any size? Doesn't seem like there was any CD to speak of. Leninists, Trots, and assorted Vanguardists fund raising for their version of the revolution doesn't sound like my Idea of fun. I have seen those Aztec dancers since my first LA demo in 91-92. They belong at street fairs not demos unless they are on a truck or something. A demo should be ready to confront the authorities, not be a benefit concert or leftist chest beating fest. No wonder the Bushites arn't worried.
Am I beng to harsh? The best day of the democratic convention was in my experience the confrontation at the party on Santa Monica Pier Sunday before the convention in 2000. Those long lines of cops getting overtime to watch us in our polite marches downtown didn't do anything for me.
I wonder if I missed anything except a chance to mingle with some friends and catch a few rays. Maybe next weekend in SF will be more interesting. Somebody PLEASE proove me wrong!!
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I agree about the Aztec dancers

by 000 Sunday, Jan. 12, 2003 at 9:02 PM

One thing that was quite disturbing were the people surrounding the Aztec dancers trying to keep people from entering, what felt like, their "sacred" circle.

While walking by, these people very aggressively grabbed my jacket and pulled me, and the then pushed me, outside of the their line. Without an apology or explanation, they rudely barked orders to stay out.

I have no problem respecting their space, but the minute one of those assholes lays their hand on me like that, I won't respond politely. I told them in very clear terms not to ever push me like that. I noticed that i was not the only one they treated that way. fuck that peace nazi bullshit.

treat people with respect and they will return it.

on the issue of the march, i think its fine that it was diverse and peaceful. This march was about getting people out in numbers to demonstrate our opposition.
It was a great day with the exception of those few assholes.

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by p-b Sunday, Jan. 12, 2003 at 10:40 PM

Everyone has the right to express their views in whatever manner moves them. Dancers dance to express themselves. And maybe some folks only hear a message if its a dancer delivering it.

Dance on!


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Cost Of Protest

by Ian Thompson Monday, Jan. 13, 2003 at 12:03 PM

To the "long-time protestor": I am glad you enjoyed the protest, but you seem rather naive for a "long-time protestor."

First, the protest yesterday was phenomenal. People came out in droves to show the world that Angelenos oppose the war! What a success.

Of course the money gathered will be used by ANSWER and the other groups who sponsored the rally for anti-war demonstrations, and not the WWP. To suggest otherwise falls into red-baiting, the kind demonized by one of ICUJP's speakers yesterday at the rally. Also, ANSWER is a coalition, not just the IAC; in LA, ANSWER is comprised of groups as diverse as Free Palestine Alliance, BAYAN International-USA (Filipino Community); National Lawyers Guild; MINDULLAE (Korean); Palestinian-American Women’s Association; International Action Center; American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Comm. (ADC, LA- Orange County). You should be thanking ANSWER rather than casting aspersions against them.

Also, the rally cost about $15,000 to put on. With banners, the sound systems (2 of them), the stage, the fencing around the stage, et cetera, costs add up quickly. Remeber, there were about 25,000 to 30,000 people marching.

It costs the organizers much money to fight against war and militarism. A fund pitch by non-profit organizations which are providing people a mass venue to raise their voices against the war is not unreasonable. As a long-time protestor, you should know that. So, don't feel bad giving money. It's going nowhere but to build protests against the war and US agression.

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Great article

by cass71898 Monday, Jan. 13, 2003 at 3:26 PM

What a great article and what a great day! Everyone I met was so happy to be there and fired up about the cause. I did see some women squabbling over at the porto-toilets, but that was it. I also didn't mind giving a little money. The government is using my tax dollars to wage this war, a little more of my money to try to stop it is well worth it.
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thank 'cass71898'.....

by lynx-11 Monday, Jan. 13, 2003 at 3:40 PM

"....The government is using my tax dollars to wage this war, a little more of my money to try to stop it is well worth it...."

similar topic

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Re: Rookie's view from Los Angeles

by Tony Jones Monday, Jan. 13, 2003 at 5:45 PM

Yes, it was a great march.

(I was at many protests back in the '60; one of those 'radical' students. I helped organize some protests at East L.A. College, but disapeared when Uncle Sam wanted to put me in uniform.)

I arrived about 1:00 Saturday finding my way to the march. It was so different from what I experienced in the past. I've been away so long.

Here was a true slice of humanity, every ethnicity and age. I looked around at the old people in wheelchairs, the mothers carrying their babies, and the parents who brought their childern. I could not stop the tears from welling up in my eyes.

I must have looked like the saddest person there, but they were tears of joy.

Here I was standing in solidarity with the human family,
showing support, trying to help end the madness and stop to evil warmongers in the whitehouse.

No more sitting on my ass. I will be counted for as long as it takes.

I feel good today... It was good for the soul.

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Red-baiting and Group-think

by Long-time protestor Monday, Jan. 13, 2003 at 7:53 PM

Hmm, an insulting and vitiriolic response to a carefully phrased post: so I'm "naive" and getting close to "red-baiting" because I ask a question?

You don't answer my questions and respond with some close-to-insults instead.

Let me make something quite clear: I wa at the march DESPITE the fact that I was aware that the coalition consisted of people like the IAC. I believe that it is very important to show a united front of opposition to the war on Iraq. This has to be a rainbow coalition of people that have little else in common with each other. It is important that each march or protest or campaign or direct-action be completely open so that their temporary allies feel that their good will is not being abused.

I was not keen on being on a march with people like the Spartacists who were waving placards with eg. "For unconditional military defense of North Korea". I freakin hate N.Korea as an authoritarian dictatorship. I also dislike Iraq as a dictatorship and I don't follow the WWP or IAC in believing that we should defend these regimes. I want those regimes to end.

I don't however, support the US waging war whenever, wherever it wants in defense of Capitalism. I specifically in this case object to an assault on an already suffering people.

If the US were to change its spots and decide to _really_ support Freedom and Democracy and after ousting GWB and the Representative "Democracy" here and then set about supporting Iraqi non-authoritarian socialists then I'd be all for it.

As regards naivete:
1. How much does the rental ot 2PAs and trucks cost
2. How much does the rental of fence around the stage cost.
3. Can you _personally_ guarantee that none of the excess money (which you implicitly acknowledge) will go towards supporting the anti-socialist tyrannies in North Korea, Iraq etc?
4. Are you aware of the history of "united front" campaigns in which authoritarian communists have been involved?
5. What do you base your estimate of the crowd sizes upon? Gut instinct? Some other means? Otherwise again its just he-says-she-says.

Thanks to all the people that came out to protest. Lets hope that everyone energized by goes out to create their own organizations instead of letting professional "organizers" build careers upon it.
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here! here! Long-time protestor

by wunderbar Monday, Jan. 13, 2003 at 8:26 PM

Criticism and collaboration, distance and solidarity are not opposites. Well said.
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Long Time Protester Estranged

by Criticism? Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2003 at 11:51 AM

Dear Long-Time Protestor:

From a reading of your comments, the ones lodged in response, and then your rejoinder, it seems your criticisms of the demonstration are not well founded. At least in the way in which you promulgate them. I agree, criticism of any event is important, but only if it is fair and allows the party being criticised a voice in response. Yours allows for neither.

To think that the organizers are making money off of this rally is absurd. I know of no anti-imperialist group that operates in the black. How on earth do you get the idea that the organizers are making money off of this rally? Did you ask Blaise Bonpane and the CWP? Did you ask Rev. Lawson and the ICUJP? Did you ask the ANSWER organizers, or Not in Our Name? Did you contact KPFK, the co-sponsors of this rally? Of course not. Unfounded and unresearched criticism is entirely unhelpful. If you are dead set on hypothesizing, go to the sources to get the answer.

Speaking from experience in the movement for social justice, I personally know that it costs a helluva lot of money to stage these rallies. The placards, the banners, the leaflets, the advertisements in the LA Times, the LA Weekly (and other ethnic newspapers), the sound systems, the lead sound truck, and many, many other things together cost thousands of dollars. Would an itemization of the costs appease you? If so, go to the organizers and ask for one, don't speculate.

And if you really want assurances that no "excess" money is going to "authoritarian communists" then why don't you confront those you call such names and ask them where the money is going. ANSWER's office is open each day at 422 S. Western Ave., as far as I know. Their phone number is (213) 487-2368.

As for your denial of red-baiting, do you really think you are not engaging in red-baiting by calling a group "authoritarian communists?"

By the way, ANSWER and the IAC do not defend Iraq, and certainly don't defend dictatorships. From a simple reading of their liturature you can discern this. They know that Saddam is a brutal leader who is no good for the people, but they feel the fight is to stop the US from killing more Iraqi's, which will not be helped by qualifying each statement against the war. Criticism of Saddam is not the point here. We are against the war about to be waged by our country, not his. Let the people of Iraq determine who should lead them. US intervention has never been for humanitarian reasons, only paternalistic, jingoistic ones. That is the IAC line as far as I can tell.

In short, you should ask the IAC what they really think before maligning them with impunity. Better yet, go to a meeting. I'm pretty sure you wouldn't be deemed a communist by attending one function. Then, whatever your disagreements with the IAC may be, why not treat them with a modicum of respect. They are a leftist group working for the same thing as you in this instance -- to stop the war.

Please be fair and intelligent.
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Insults and no answers

by Long Time Protestor Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2003 at 9:20 PM

Dear "Criticism?",

so you insinuate that I'm "unintelligent" and "unfair" and yet cannot answer any one of the numbered questions that I posed. Not very reassuring. I was hoping to be given some more information which I could thrust at the 4 people that I went with who refused to give money because they don't like unaccountable situations (and also because they didn't like suddenly being stung for cash in a hard-sell situations).

As regards your accusations of "red-baiting", examine the common structure and result of the following:

Don't criticize the US "war on terror" it's UNPATRIOTIC
Don't criticize the IAC/WWP/ANSWER it's REDBAITING
Dont't criticize.....................................

As regards WWP/IAC/ANSWER supporting totalitarian regimes and being "authoritarian socialists" WWP has defended Stalin in print on many occasions, the IAC actually calls for the release of MIlosevic from the Hague, never tempers or contextualizes its criticism of US atrocities with condemnation of the atrocities of Saddam Hussein etc.

Really, I'm sure you know well that this is the case. As you also know that the IAC is run by WWP cadre, as are many of the important positions in ANSWER (ask C.Kissinger and Becker!). (A significant numbers of thers are held by Revolutionary Communist Party members -- go Shining Path!).

Again, this sort of behaviour: hiding behind front groups, calling for no-criticism "it's red-baiting/sectarianism" etc. is poison to any chance of a strong anti-war movement. Just be open folks.

Now, again, who got the money, who signed for it, where's it going? Did I just contribute $5 to supporiting Milosevic?
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