The following is what I felt; what I saw. I lay no claim to objectivity: this is going to be heavy-handed. I am a student at CSULA. Been so for almost a decade. I have seen first hand the corrosion of the quality of resources, services, and education. I took no part in the organization of anything for March 4th. I was merely aÂ participantÂ at the march, as well as doing some acts of solidarity with the NO-CUTS COALITION at CSULA previous to the march. My lack of engagement was probably due to my tendency to not want to be an activist and also my perpetual business. As a student/worker, one is in a place that is extremely vulnerable: when one is not working, one is studying; and when one is not doing either of those, one is busy trying to get-by. This is a perfect place for the State and Global Capitalism to have us in: a place in limbo. The report continues after the jump…
My foray into March 4th’s event starts here in Lincoln Heights, right outside of Lincoln HS. I left work @ 12:30 and made my way to downtown LA on the 45. Before the start of lunch at Lincoln HS some students staged a sit-in of about 40 students at the flag pole.
I arrived at Olvera Street. Via Facebook an organizer of the CSULA contigency let me know that the meet-up point for various universities/campuses was to be the park in front of La Placita. Upon arrival, I was told we were waiting for others to arrive. The police presence at this point was not but a single squad car with a cop leaning against it just watching.
At this point people from PCC and a few other campuses had arrived. Also what seemed to be like some high school students arrived. It was awesome to see young people in the mix! One of them had one of the best signs!
A message worth taking to heart! The anti-capitalists were out in full-force at this march, but much too my own chagrin they were of the reformists/Statist sort: more on that later.
Having reached a critical mass, and all campuses arrived the air of the gathering turned festive with drums of all sorts and the chanting in full swing! Cheers met the newly arrived as theyÂ descendedÂ from buses or came out of Union Station. The part that bummed out was when someone was passing out “chants” on paper for us to do. Can’t we, us muddled-masses, be allowed to be creative and make our own? I know I am!
In awesome form, one of the organizers I knew, announced some of the things that we should all know when we are participating in a march so that we will have minimal hassle & intimidation from the pigs. For instance: state that you are exercising your first amendment right, you DO NOT consent to a search, and that you are engaging in political activity. I am not one for following pure legality, but the fact that many students are not “documented” immigrants necessitates this sort of dissemination of knowledge.
We marched our way up Alameda, turning on 1st street making our way through Little Tokyo. Here the police made sure that we stayed on the sidewalks (as did some of the organizers). A few on bicycles urged us to take to the streets but as soon as we did the cops made sure to block us and corral us onto the sidewalks once again. It was then I really wish my bicycle was in riding order so that I could help bring the march ONTO the streets. I know we had support from drivers because they greeted us with fists in the air and car horns blasting!
Here we are at the corner of 1st and Los Angeles St. As you can see the cops Â became more plentiful. The bicyclists helped the march taunt the police by re-inviting us into the streets. Fantastic!
Some marchers atop the sign for City Hall South. If only sledgehammers were brought along! The march continued, with lots of the usual chanting & drums heading into Downtown proper and finally ended up in Pershing Square.
Here we are on the corner of 5th & Hill. This is where my spirits went downhill. I like protest as celebration and revelry not just “letting people know what’s going on.” It should inspire us to do take to the streets every day! Making protest streamlined by handing pre-made signs makes protesting feel like work, not joyous action. I did not have a sign when I showed up. I was given a piece of cardboard by someone, borrowed a marker and made my own sign! I wish I had documented it but it read: “BUDGET CUTS = Â CLASS WAR / FIGHT BACK!” And I believe it. Making it more and more difficult for working people to enter into the universities is class war by the hands of the state. As I recently overheard at a discussion group: it is both the retreating and arming of the state because the money not used in public institutions are shifted to fund wars, prisons, and the militarization of the police.
As I said, I enjoy when protest becomes creative & joyous (why should it be anything else?). Here we have some performance art type stuff going on with tongue-in-cheek signs like “It must suck to be BROWN” & “Dear Governator, I <3 Debt!” Now some activists would frown at this kind of thing but most of the protest at this march existed in the realm of the symbolic and so why not at least make it interesting? Are we not just struggling against “Budget Cuts” but as well as struggling to regain the joy and freedom of our very lives?
Another great sign! And this time mocking how some punks probably only show up to protests for punk points! Although there weren’t that many punks here; the punks I did see somehow got tricked into carrying RED flags; Â just by reading their patches I know they listen to anarcho-punk. Â When I asked them where they got the flags they said someone just gave them to them. Don’t get swindled into giving someone else’s message! This is why I refused those pre-made signs that had websites to their respective socialist/communist organizations at the bottom. I am autonomous!
Here we are.Â CorralledÂ in by the police. I could feel that theÂ protestersÂ just wanted to keep marching! They had a taste of running wild on the streets and wanted more! A few friends I met had the same sentiment. One said, “this all feels so controlled.” EXACTLY!
Here’s a truck. They had speakers on it. They were meant to rile up the crowd but I thought it was a bore. Some talked about taxing the rich to solve things. Why do State-Socialists think that that can solve everything? When they sleep do they dream only of taxing the rich?Â …so I turned my attention elsewhere!
Theses guys were doing some weird-ass dance moves. I’m into it. Subvert normality!
Eventually the people here joined the professors at their own march (?) a few blocks down. Here the mass of people seemed to be at least a thousand people. You could see the diversity of people out here: university workers, students, professors, etc.
I thankfully found the rowdy part of the march to hang out with. So rowdy they started to PROTEST the ORGANIZERS! See that truck in the background? It was blocking our way and blasting Rage Against the Machine (snore!). They started to chant: “START THE MARCH! START THE MARCH!” And this chant started to catch on.
Here, a bare-footedÂ protesterÂ climbed up the wall and then proceeded to let down the fire escape ladder. His actions were greeted with cheers. I knew some here wanted more than just chanting and marching! He was inviting more to join him and I was hoping something more was going to happen but it stopped there. He came down and those Downtown security folks in purple shirts just seemed to give him a lecture as he walked away.
This is where I stopped taking photos.
Eventually we were allowed to head down to the Ronald Reagan building. Here a band played. And once again I could tell people just wanting to keep rolling through city but here we were, in front of a building.
CONCLUSION: Yes, most of this write-up was critical but what I realized is that I need to “ORGANIZE, NOT MOURN.” One cannot expect one’s desires to be realized by solely thinking of them. Soon, some of the organizers at CSULA will be meeting and I will be there to put in my two cents and see where this can go. My personal inspiration around this growing student movement comes from the wave of occupations and other direct-actions taken by students.
For more on that go here:
For local stuff go here:
Also do not let anyone, no matter where they are coming from, control what you want to do to express what you want. No one is the gatekeeper to your life. Just because someone has “organized” dozens of marches, demonstrations does not mean that what you feel, think is of any less value. Our dreams can never fit on a bill, in a ballot box, or on a protest sign. Keep dreaming, keep revolting! I was inspired to see anything go down to counteract what is going on.
NOTE: Feel free to disseminate, critique, and comment. I am but one voice amongst many!