Wednesday, May 03, 2006

May 1, 2006 Los Angeles

I started May Day in Santa Monica holding a picket sign that said "Faculy Wants a Fair Contract Now" in front of Santa Monica College on Pico Street at 8:30 am. Seven of us from the faculty union were picketing for a contract. The faculty has been negotiating for a new contract for 18 months, and has been without a raise for 3 1/2 years. During that time the administration has given itself two raises so our union called for a picket line in the afternoon and morning starting last Wednesday. As we seven picketed, we received some friendly honks and waves, particularly from the truckers and bus drivers.

I taught my two classes and left campus. At 4:25 I was walking toward Wilshire and Highland to join the Wilshire march of the Day Without Immigrants. The marchers were starting to walk at 4:00 at Wilshire and Alvarado, over 4 miles away. I had figured that the marchers wouldn't get to my corner until around 6:00 p.m., so getting there by 4:25 was very early. Was I wrong. Getting to the corner, I was just arranging my camera for the first shot and watching some bicyclers and a few random marchers walk by for five minutes.

Then I turned and saw a huge mass of people approaching 1 1/2 hours early. Most people were wearing white and were waving American flags: big flags, little flags, flag hats, a flat wrapped around one's shoulder. Most were in family groups with children including many pushing baby strollers or men were carrying children around their shoulders. I thought it was amzing to push a baby stroller for four miles. It was an awe inspring sight to see this huge mass of people coming so early. While I was busy taking photos, two men approached me, and asked me to take their photo, handing me their cameras--both times I did so.

The marchers kept on coming and coming: again mostly in family groups. Most of the thousands who went by were Latino, but a scattered few were Asian or white or black--I saw a black mom walk with her ten year old son. More thousands kept coming--it was a festival, a carnival, a fiesta, a march down Wilshire Boulevard. Immanuel Presbyterian Church members marched by with a banner. Assemblyman Marco Firebaugh whom I once met had a banner saying he was present. I saw my studentKaren from LA Trade Technical College marching with her dad and her brother who looked around ten, so I took their photo. The onlookers on the sidewalk were friendly while most of the businesses were closed.

I decided to walk with the crowd to LaBrea which was about 6 blocks away but when we got up to Sycamore Street the crowd was so packed I couldn't march any more; it was impossible to get any closer to LaBrea where the sound stage was, so I turned back to Highland, taking more photos. Thousands more came by, so after over 2 hours by 6:45 the crowd seemed to thin after, with some marchers who had got near LaBrea turning back. I thought, well, this has been geat, but I've seen most of it. The cops were standing relaxed on the sidelines, and I started talking to one friendly black traffic cop who said she had started at 2 and had to work until 11. Her partner, she said, was on overtime. I told him, "I hope you get time and a half," and he smiled.

At 6:45 the mass of people approaching got even thicker than before--this was the heart of the march. What I had seen for the previous 2 hours 15 minutes was the advance troops. Again it was utterly an awesome sight to see the mass of people approaching down Los Angeles's biggest street.

Now, instead of family groups, people marched in front of big banners a few hundred strong. The Koreans of Korean Immigrant Workers Association (KIWA) marched in two lines in colorful black-and-yellow costumes banging drums. The Association of Hot Dog Vendors marched behind their banner. The Day Laborers marched behind their banner.

A few minutes later when another group got to the intersection of Highland people started yelling, "Bajo, bajo" and motioned to get down. Soon hundreds of people sat down in the intersection. Then five minutes later they got up in a group and shouted with delight. Yes, the march had great exuberance, peacefullness, and delight.

A 1/2 million people had marched peacefully down Wilshire Boulevard as well as another 300,000 had marched up Broadway earlier than day in downtown, and the truck drivers had closed own the port of Los Angeles, the largest port on the West Coast. It was quite a day.

1 comment:

Kay Cooke said...

Thanks for the 'insider's report'. So much more informative and colourful - and with a refreshingly realistic and human angle - than the TV news reports. History in the making hopefully.