Across the nation today, millions of people marched in solidarity against the drastic HR4437 bill that the US senate approved a few months ago. In Los Angeles there were 3 separate marches scheduled including one in Downtown Los Angeles. It rained on and off throughout the day and when I arrived at La Placita I was worried that it would rain on me and my camera (selfish, yes I know) and at the same time I was a bit disappointed by the apparent turnout which looked to be around two thousand people. When 5 o’clock rolled around everybody gathered around the small stage where Cardinal Mahoney was gathered with an eclectic group of religious authority figures of varying faiths including a rabbi, an imam, several priests, a cantor, a buddhist monk and a reverend from Barbados.
Each speaker gave their rousing talks, most in English and Spanish, and the crowd went wild, feverishly waving their American flags. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa opened his talk with a polite request for the protesters to roll up and stow away their non-American flags. He said that the flags from other countries would not help their cause, and most of the protesters obliged his request. I would estimate that that 95 out of 100 flags were red, white and blue with stars and stripes.
Cantor Steve Puzarne led the crowd in his own custom version of the classic religious song about Moses’ request to the pharaoh to “Let My People Go” [the song is actually titled Go Down Moses], but instead the chorus was replaced with “Let Our People Stay.” The song was very moving and the whole crowd sang along enthusiastically.
After the song and a few more speakers, including some high school students, the mayor introduced the president of the NAACP, Bruce S. Gordon who spoke of his and the NAACP’s support for the immigrants and their families and compared their strife to that of blacks in the last civil rights movement of the past century. He spoke out against a wall, both physical and emotional, that would keep immigrants out, just like a wall had kept out the sons and daughters of former slaves, a wall that just came down 30 years ago.
After the speakers were finished they headed out behind the stage and I followed which gave me a chance to get in front of the procession and get some great shots of Villaraigosa and Gordon walking side by side with the library tower in the background. I walked with the protesters as they made their way around Chinatown and eventually to the Fletcher Bowron park across Temple from City Hall. I was surprised to see what must have been over 15,000 people make their way to the park and fill in the streets around it. A live band played and several people spoke while the crowd waved their flags patriotically. As it grew dark they lit candles standing together in support.
On a side note, I only ran in to one blogger BeFrank, whom I had never met before, but recognized from his photos. He snapped a photo of me and said it would be up later tonight on his blog. Don Garza was there, although I didn’t see him, but he took some great photos and quoted the mayor on his site. I am kicking myself for not checking the mail before I left, for if I had I would have discovered my new Olympus DM-10 voice recorder had just arrived and I would have actually been able to have some quotes in this article. Oh well, next time!
[You can find the complete set of my photos here.]