Though next week is when the big protests rallies are scheduled around the country over the Trump immigration policy that separates children from there parents, they had an earlier, smaller one today in West Los Angeles. There might have been a few others around the country, but the point of this one was a bit different, initially set up as a way to get toys, blankets and necessities to the children. Despite the short time organizing it and small locality, the turnout was quite good. It seemed like about 500-700 people, but there were still many coming when I left after an hour-and-a-half.
It was supposed to be held at the Federal Building in Westwood, but a speaker said they couldn't get permission from the government. However, the City of Los Angeles gave them approval to organize on the sidewalk next to it. (Come to think of it, that might be why there was a young woman with a sign imploring people to keep on the paths. It made no sense, since the grounds were basically dirt, and so it wasn't like you would be trampling grass.)
I was told about the event by my friend Nick Melvoin, who was recently elected to the L.A. School Board and was named Vice President. He was one of the speakers, but the roster was impressive for such a hastily put-together event. There were a couple of members of the L.A. City Council, the state senator and assemblyman, and also the two U.S. House representative for the area -- Rep. Karen Bass, and Rep. Ted Lieu (who you might have seen on Friday playing the audio tape on the House floor of crying children, being reprimanded by the temporary Sitting-Speaker). I didn't stay around to hear them, but did hear another congresswoman, Rep. Maxine Waters, who gave a fire-and-brimstone speech shredding the president. Not a bad line-up for something this quickly organized.
[UPDATE: Here's video of Maxine Waters' full six-minute speech, not just the one-minute played on TV and misrepresented by Republicans. Short version -- she laid out the case of the dangers of Trump and his administration, and then using that as a foundation said that GOP officials should be confronted peacefully and publicly shamed to let them know their actions are not acceptable. Not violence, but to use your voices. As you'll see from above, her words of even peaceful confrontation aren't even mentioned by me in my original write-up, it was such a small part of what she actually said.]
There were more speakers during the 90 minutes I was there -- with another hour-and-a-half to go), including a representative of the Southern Christian Leadership Council (Martin Luther King's group), other religious figures, and a few celebrities and entertainers, most notably Kristen Bell.
Yes, yes, I know. You were hoping for a picture of Nick Melvoin. But sometimes we have to make decisions that might not be popular.
She actually gave a very good, thoughtful speech, mostly focusing on kids from her perspective as a mother. (So many questions that children ask, she said, you can't answer, like "Do dinosaurs burp?" But when they're older and see pictures in history books of this moment, and they ask, "Was this real?? Did you do anything?", that was a question we should all be able to answer "Yes.")
Side note: about 45 minutes later when she eventually left, some people near me saw her heading off at a distance and called to her for a selfie with their toddler. She wandered over and not only took a picture with the baby, but spent time talking with it.
There was an odd realization that hit me after about an hour or so. The event was well-attended with people of all ages, from quite a bit older to parents and their kids, some being very young, along with areas for children to make signs. And as I was looking around at some of the six-year-olds (and younger) playing on the ground and hugging onto their mothers and sitting on their dad's shoulders -- it struck me how terrified they'd be if they lost sight of their parents for just two minutes. I couldn't imagine their reaction of their parents were gone -- just gone, for days and weeks. If not longer. The perspective was visceral and heart-breaking. And sickening.
Fortunately, that wasn't an issue for anyone there. And the spirit and anger was strong. What I didn't know, though, until I got to the grounds was the larger purpose of the event. As I noted above, they were gather items for the children who had been put in detention centers in San Diego, three hours to the south. It turns out that they had also hired several buses to take as much of the material as they could -- they said they got 10 times more than they expected and were asking for people there with trucks -- and also bring people down to deliver it all and to try and get into some facilities. Had I known in advance, I might have tried to go along, but I wasn't prepared for what they said would be an 11-hour journey.
All in all, a very well-done, admirable and sadly necessary day. It'll be interesting to see what happens next week in Los Angeles and around the country.
And oh, okay, giving in to popular demand, here's a photo of Nick Melvoin...
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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