SPECIAL FEATURE: The Women’s March, Los Angeles – Something Happened Here
Three-quarters of a million people took to the streets of downtown Los Angeles Saturday to celebrate women’s rights. It quickly turned into a celebration of human rights in general and of the greatest human right of all, to stand up for yourself and speak out for your own beliefs
It was a cool sunny day that fell between two days of rainstorms and was so clear the marchers seemed to be almost at the feet of the distant snowcapped mountains. There was a list of notable leaders scheduled to speak atThe Women’s March LA but the timetable was soon interrupted by a turnout thirty times bigger than planners expected.
As masses streamed into the narrow downtown canyons of the City of Angels, the L.A. Fire Marshall grew concerned for their safety and delayed events. By the middle of the morning, the schedule was forgotten.
By then, the event had become the streets themselves, gridlocked with a wall-to-wall array of real-life angels of every age, gender, and color. They carried posters and banners proclaiming an almost confusing political agenda that ranged from presidential politics to women’s healthcare and from environmental advocacy to human rights.
Only one thing unified them: Their commitment to what their banners and posters proclaimed. Real-life angels were spreading their wings on behalf of what mattered to them.
By the end of the day, away from the streets, a platoon of conservative women had been hustled out in the media to respond with a set of pro-Trump administration, pro-establishment talking points. One thing they repeated on radio and television was that those with conservative views had been excluded.
What this reporter experienced in Los Angeles was the most diverse, warm, and welcoming crowd he has seen at a political rally anywhere in the U.S. or Europe, going all the way back to the 1966 Sunset Strip protests. The Sunset Strip marches were immortalized in Buffalo Springfield’s For What It’s Worth, which opens with “There’s something happening here…”.
Had a pro-life woman appeared in the crowd, she would have had to make her case, just like the numerous marchers this reporter talked to who came armed with facts to make their cases.
A young woman who just got her Bachelor’s degree in Marine Biology talked about the science behind climate change and her concerns with the new administration’s inattention to it.
A baby boomer remembered the Cold War and described worries about ties between the new administration and Russia after well-substantiated reports linked Vladimir Putin to meddling in the November U.S. election.
A hefty gay man working event security expressed concern about recent stock market fluctuations that seem to have been aggravated by the new administration’s erratic positioning on economic policy.
More than anything else, though, the streets seemed almost screaming with a single sentiment. It put President Trump in the White House and put President Obama there before him. It was the voice of the people demanding to be heard. But there was something very different emerging here.
This movement is, yes, led by old-school Democrats with a traditional liberal agenda. With them came the traditional slogan-chanting. But the fiber of this march was a very different constituency. The movement behind this march is where millennials hope to get their one question answered.
The noise out front was being made by Gen X activists and their celebrity and political heroes. But the streets were too jammed for most to get to the stages and hear the celebrities and political leaders. The strength and driving force was in the crowd itself and it came from the young adults who made up the bulk of the crowd.
These astute millennials went to kindergarden in September 11’s shadow, saw school mates die in Iraq, Afghanistan, and this nation’s inner cities, and face mountains of student loan debt that will not buy them the careers they deserve.
Their dream of Bernie was ripped away. And on November 8, the fading hope of Hillary was stolen.
These young people, schooled by Kermit and Mr. Rogers, have the noblest and gentlest values of any generation this nation has produced. They want to know what happened to the world they thought they lived in while Barack Obama, really the only president they’ve known, was at the helm.
The diversity made the center hard to see but diversity is the millennial generation’s ethos.
Here’s what happened in the streets of Los Angeles Saturday: The crowd quickly became much too big for anybody to march. Nobody around Pershing Square or at City Hall or on the streets between them went anywhere. The march became a stand – for three hours.
Many of the baby boomers in the crowd grew weary and sat down. Many Gen X-ers, often pushing strollers, got on their cell phones to make dinner plans. But the millennials started dancing where they stood.
The message was unmistakable: “We will party until the streets clear because this is just the beginning of OUR time. We are here to begin remaking this country into the one we were promised and we are not going anywhere until that gets done.”
A Facebook friend asked Saturday night where the post-march parties were. The answer is that parties were unneeded. The march was the party. It celebrated the emergence of a new political generation.
What remains to be seen is whether what happened Saturday will blossom into a political movement. Translating the march into changes on schoolboards and city councils and state legislatures all across Southern California and the rest of the U.S. is where the party ends and the work begins.
It is the next test for a truly great generation already tested by terrorism and recession. Saturday, on the streets of Los Angeles and around the world, these young people declared they want the work.