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Monday, March 21, 2005

Activists Can't Sing
One brief observation from a very busy weekend. Saturday was spent taking Metrolink from Montclair to downtown Los Angeles, touring Olvera Street, then boarding the Metro Red Line and spending some time in Hollywood and on my first-ever tour of the stars' homes.

When we boarded the Red Line at Union Station to go to Hollywood, I noticed a woman holding a protest sign which talked about achieving peace through peaceful means. A few minutes later, a group of people walked through the subway station, all of their faces painted white, one of the men wearing a white dress, and playing some kind of flute-like instruments.

Security was tight - a sheriff's deputy on a Segway, a dog sniffing everything - but not really necessary. These people were a throwback to the Summer of Love ilk, where if you hold a flower, then release it, peace will break out. They weren't disruptive.

Several hours later, we went to the Red Line station at Hollywood & Highland to start our journey back home. As we went down the escalator to board the train, I heard an acoustic guitar down below. When we got down there, a guitarist was sitting on one of the benches, and several people were crowded around him singing "Imagine."

Or, more accurately, trying to sing "Imagine." Their attempts were hampered because
  • They couldn't really carry a tune.

  • They didn't really know the words.

So Lennon's attempt to beautify the Communist Manifesto was reduced to earnest cacophony. I was tempted to bust out laughing, but restrained myself - I'm sure I've been off-key and off-lyric a time or two myself.

Next, the guitarist started to play "Yesterday." What relevance "Yesterday" has to peace wasn't clear to me at first, until one of the women added additional lines to the song (e.g. "Because Bush stole the election").

The group wrapped up their set (before the guitarist boarded a northbound train) with "Give Peace a Chance." They did fairly well on this one by leaving out the verses and sticking to the chorus. If you're unfamiliar with this song, the chorus goes like this:

All we are saying
Is give peace a chance

Repeat ad infinitum, or (for some) ad nauseum. The tune's fairly simple, so most of them got it.

Eventually, our party and the activists boarded a train for downtown L.A. On this train we met a self-appointed preacher. Here's some of his sermon:

Why are you looking at me like that?

Don't be looking at the women like that. If you look at the women like that, you'll become a woman.

I know you don't have God.

This despite the fact that the activists were very earnest and Methodist-looking.

You have darkness in your eyes.

I'm not trying to convert anyone. I'm just talking to my reflection in the window.

At least he didn't take an offering.

P.S. As it turned out, we missed most of the protest itself. While the activists were working on making this world a better place, we were taking a tour bus down Rodeo Drive and past the Menendez brothers' former home. Here's an account of the protest from the answerla.org web site:

March 19 Global Day of Action
March and Rally in Los Angeles
On the 2nd anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq

20,000 protesters in the streets!

The crowd in Los Angeles swelled despite the morning rain. It took more than 30 minutes for the entire demonstration, marching on very wide streets, to enter the final rally area near Hollywood and Highland. The LA march included contingents from the labor movement, youth and students, Palestinian and Arab American community, the Philippino community, Cuba and the Cuban Five, immigrant rights movement, the women's equality movement, and many other organizations and communities.

The LA rally was co-chaired by Margaret Prescod, Global Women's Strike and KPFK; Joneric Concordia, KMB Pro-People Youth; Muna Coobtee, Free Palestine Alliance; Jim Lafferty, National Lawyers Guild.

Speakers included Assemblymember Jackie Goldberg; Vietnam Vet Ron Kovic; Robin Tyler, DontAmend.com; Actor Mimi Kennedy; Preston Wood, ANSWER Coalition-LA; Rev. George Regas and Hussam Alyoush, ICUJP; Kent Wong, UCLA Labor Center; Celes King III, CORE and a leader of the "Save King Drew" struggle; April Fitzsimmons, Veterans for Peace; Serge Luchnikov, Iraq Veterans Against War; Don White, KPFK Board Chair; Christine Araquel, Alliance for a Just and Lasting Peace in the Philippines; Jason Yapp, KMB Pro-People Youth, Michael Shahin, Free Palestine Alliance, Mahmud Ahmad, Al-Awda; Laura Villegas, Progressive Alliance-SMC; Marcial Guerra, Party for Socialism and Liberation; Richard Moreno, Global Resistance Network; Sharon Lungo, Global Women's Strike, Vicky Castro, Gold Star Families Against the War; Julie Levine, Topanga Peace Alliance; Juan Manuel Martinez, Int'l Socialist Organization; Husam Abu-Sneineh, Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee-LA/OC; Jennifer Caldwell, National Committee to Free the Cuban Five; Juan Jose Gutierrez, Latino Movement USA; Arlene Inouye, Coalition Against Militarism in our Schools; Pedro Baez, King Drew Activist; John Stain, Not in Our Name; Int'l League of People's Struggle; John Owen, Peace and Freedom Party, and more.

Performers included hip-hop artist Farmer Jon, Patty & the Sunshine Brothers, Conspiracy of Thought, the Freedom People, folk singers Terry and Bill, and rapper Wil B.


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