By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
A moderate-size demonstration of Hotel Employees & Restaurant Employees International Union members was in progress outside the Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel last week when the Santa Monica police showed up in full protective gear -- helmets, face shields and all. The SaMo HERE crowd is a noisy but nonviolent bunch who’ve been marching for months and peacefully blocked traffic once or twice. So why, you might wonder, were the cops suddenly getting down to what you might call the Full Montgomery -- if you recalled those sad, triumphant Alabama days 40 years gone by -- in what looked like preparation for their further local manifestations at D2K time next month.
Elsewhere, in Los Angeles, Mayor Dick Riordan was also amping up. He did about as good a Travis Bickle as any certified blue suit could manage in a Times op-ed July 13. Spewing hate at the demonstrators “swinging tire irons” (as he twice put it) expected outside the D2K convention, he urged us all to log on to “http:www.D2kla.org to see just how determined and organized these anarchists are.” Those of us who obeyed his orders read the following nihilist manifesto:
1. We will use no violence, physical or verbal, towards any person. We consider speech or acts that are racist, homophobic, or sexist to be violent.
2. We will carry no weapons.
3. We will not bring or use any alcohol or illegal drugs.
4. We will not destroy property.
Even as the counterculture grapevine suggested that the August demonstrators might total less than the 10,000 to 50,000 people predicted, the official countywide police gear-up seemed to be getting more aggressive. According to one Gannett story, even the vacations of coroner staff are being revoked. My colleague Harold Meyerson well described the Pershing Square fiasco last week, whereby the City Council was stampeded into forbidding access to the public locale originally dedicated to what you might call “obedient civil disobedience.”
But there‘s another problem here that hasn’t received public notice. This is the fact that the wondrous “Turtle-Teamster” eco-labor alliance that characterized, protected and democratized November‘s “Battle in Seattle” probably won’t happen in Los Angeles this year. The big unions -- apparently -- simply don‘t want to help pull the tent down on the DNC. And why should they?
By one unofficial estimate, some 30 percent of the delegates at the convention will be union members and officials. D2K organizers keep contending that the two big political parties share equal responsibilities in raping the globe. But the Democratic Party, after all, is where big labor lives.
I could not get anyone from the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor to return my calls on this matter, but I got to talk to Sarah Knopp of the D2KLA Organizing Collective. She noted that, in the absence of the major labor presence, plenty of individual union demonstrations are taking place around August 14, particularly among locals with new contracts pending. There’s the UTLA, for instance, and various SEIU units, plus the aforementioned HERE out in Santa Monica, which is organizing some of the costliest and lowest-paying hotels in the nation. But few -- if any -- of these local-union demos are planned for the D2K area (or however close demonstrators might get to same).
So it looks like, whatever goes down downtown next month, the turtles and their out-of-town friends are on their own.
The Lower Depths, Revisited
“On the subway to work last week, I saw this woman.”
“Wait a minute: on the what to where?”
“On the subway. To work . . .”
“Excuse me, I thought I‘d dialed 818 area code. I must have got 718 Brooklyn by mistake. Sorry to disturb you.”
But even if my East Coast friend couldn’t believe it, I did see this woman on the subway on the way to work. A normal thing to say, some places. But I‘d never said it in Los Angeles (the noteworthiness of the woman in question, by the way, was that she was large-proportioned and wore a tight T-shirt advising the rest of us passengers to breast-feed our children). That’s because, until last month, we really didn‘t have a subway. Apart from that multibillion-dollar spur line to Wilshire and Western.
We do now. It works better than anyone predicted. And it’s making us who ride it, for better or for worse, into a different breed than Los Angeles has ever known. On buses and surface-rail systems, you can see the world. Whereas in subways, there‘s nothing outside but fast-moving concrete.
Therefore, subway riding means people-watching. Surreptitious use of the eyes, which, since you aren’t driving, don‘t have to keep you safe behind the wheel but need something to do. In a subway, you look at people instead of traffic. You wonder at appearances, at how anyone can have nostrils as big as the young man asleep across from you, snoring with his head flung back. You notice the shiny, high-tech collapsible cane of the hale young woman next to you, which she doesn’t unfold as she dashes out. And the apparently older man who offers you his seat.