I hate crowds. And political marches. What good do they really do?
But when one of the biggest ones was planned for downtown L.A. to assert women’s rights and protest Donald Trump as President, I felt obliged in my role as KCET’s anchor/reporter to get up early on Saturday morning and navigate public transportation to be there. Thank goodness it wasn’t raining.
Seven hours later… I understood why people go to political marches.
Hundreds of thousands of “strangers” decided to get up on Saturday morning, braving the traffic and jamming into metro trains like sardines with signs and hats, anger and hope. All because they felt something very deeply about where our country was headed. It created an energy that can’t be reproduced online, at a conference, in small gatherings, big parties or even at a sports event.
Officials say there were about half a million people there. But when you are a tiny speck in a sea of humanity you have no idea how large the crowd may be. Yet it’s suddenly okay to talk to anyone and everyone around you.
It was organized by women, but the crowd was diverse in every measure – men and women, from seven to 70, gay, straight, black, white, brown, Asian and every color in between.
The protest signs were as creative as you would expect from the creative capital of the world. They displayed a mix of issues -- women’s rights, immigration, the environment -- expressed with humor, anger, wit and a good scattering of the profane.
I made an unexpected friend when a guy helped me figure out the Metro fare machine. We hung out for the rest of the day. He is a Pasadenian in his thirties who came to the U.S. from Peru when he was nine. A gay artist who studies the Jewish Kabala and loves Madonna. He’s also good at climbing on top of newspapers stands and getting good shots of the crowd.
There were so many people in the street that “marching” was not really possible. We just all moved slowly like a human river from Pershing Square to City Hall, a twenty minute walk that would take an hour. By noon, I confess, my new friend and I decided to head back to Pasadena, supplied with plenty of photos and videos.
We also notice something very strange. We had not seen one L.A. police officer. Not one. Here was a huge politicized crowd and not one cop? Toward the end of the march a friend saw an officer and asked why there was so little security. He said it was because the LAPD was “not expecting any trouble.” Amazing. They were right.
Who knows whether this march or the one in D.C. will impact President Trump’s attitudes or policies, but it certainly renewed my faith in people and Angelenos in particular. For every one person who was there, there were a dozen acts of kindness, warmth and help. We would help someone climb up on a utility box for a better view, and he/she would take cool photos for all of us. If there were half a million people there, there were easily ten times that many smiles, jokes, and small acts of consideration.
It was enough to renew my faith in humanity right when I need it most.