The Million-Dollar March 

A tribute to greed, power and excess

Wednesday, Dec 5 2001

By Monday morning, nearly everyone on Figueroa Street would be walking briskly for capitalism, without picket signs, flags or further ado. But on Sunday, with downtown’s business district largely empty and most stores closed for the day, only a die-hard group of about 30 was to represent the world‘s reigning economic order. Carrying American flags and placards reading ”Work for Peace: Do Business Around the World,“ and ”To Earn Is Human,“ they marched from the corner of First and Figueroa down to Pico Boulevard.

Last Sunday was Capitalism Day, and the faithful were out to observe in Los Angeles and 116 other cities worldwide from Krakow to Mumbai. ”We easily have more people than in any other city,“ said Greg Morrison, the event’s local organizer. ”Some other cities in America will only have maybe five people.“

Capitalism Day was organized entirely through e-mail and Internet chat by one Prodos Stefanos Nicholaou Marinakis, who wisely goes by just his first name, and who, with a distinctive nasal whine, broadcasts an Internet talk-radio show from Melbourne, Australia, to a global audience of assorted Ayn Rand fans, libertarians and other supporters of free trade. The December 2 event, or D2, as Prodos labeled it, Morrison says, ”was originally a response to things like S11 in Australia [last year‘s September 11 protests of the World Economic Forum conference in Melbourne] and also the Seattle World Trade Organization events. He wanted to do something that was diametrically opposed to that but with a positive spin.“ Unlike most demonstrations, Morrison said, ”We’re trying to be fairly unobtrusive.“ The group, he said, would be ”careful not to block traffic or block the flow of shoppers.“

Related Stories

  • Brody Dalle on Motherhood 2

    It's been a wild decade for Brody Dalle, who has has a deep, husky voice and a tough attitude. The punk band she led, The Distillers, dissolved in 2006, and she subsequently went into recovery from a crystal meth addiction. After getting divorced from Tim Armstrong of Rancid, she married Josh...
  • Ride or Die 87

    At first, riding a bicycle through Mumbai seemed like a death wish. I saw lines of cars, scooters, rickshaws, horses, oxen, and even human-pulled carts lurch into intersections before the light turned green. I hesitated at the crosswalk, holding up traffic and setting off honking from behind. I was petrified...
  • 6 Reasons the Firestone Walker Invitational Is the Ultimate Beer Fest

    51 breweries attended the third Firestone Walker Invitational Beer Festival (FWIBF) last Saturday, May 31. The Paso Robles event has quickly garnered a prestigious reputation because the breweries represented are meticulously selected from all over the world by Firestone Walker brewmaster Matt Brynildson. Last year was unbearably hot and high gravity beers idled...
  • Should Tipping Be Abolished?

    Yesterday in The New York Times, restaurant critic Pete Wells made his case for doing away with the tipping system. He's hardly the first person to make this argument. In recent months, Slate has run articles about getting rid of the practice, as has Business Insider. There's even a MoveOn.org
  • Sly & Robbie

    @ The Echoplex

The date was chosen, according to Morrison, because Prodos ”liked the idea of having it between Thanksgiving and Christmas, that it was a major time for shopping, and that definitely ties into the capitalism idea.“ Morrison picked Figueroa as the march route not because it was the site of several confrontations between police and protesters during the Democratic National Convention, but because he found it to be ”a really user-friendly area, with the restaurants, the scenery, the business center, the stores, the police.“

Access to police protection was a major concern. The supporters of capitalism had received two e-mails signed by Green Party activist Michael Moore. The first, Morrison said, ”basically ridiculed our position.“ The second promised an aggressive counterdemonstration. Two days before the walk, Morrison was anxious. ”We very well may be outnumbered,“ he said. At the start of the march, the possible arrival of violent anti-capitalists was clearly on people‘s minds. ”They can’t hurt us if they can‘t catch us,“ one man joked, as the small group huddled beneath an overpass to keep out of the drizzle. ”They have to find us first.“

Betsy Speicher, a middle-aged woman wearing a red-white-and-blue-striped sweater and red-white-and-blue earrings, handing out flags to her comrades and carrying a red-white-and-blue umbrella, said she wasn’t overly concerned. ”We have a police permit,“ she said. ”We have cell phones.“ Speicher, a computer consultant whose car sports a ”READAYN“ vanity plate, several flags and a ”Let‘s Roll“ bumper sticker, was there, she said, ”for individual rights, for creativity, for self-interest, for capitalism.“ She differentiated the group from most demonstrators: ”We’re a bunch of contents, rather than a bunch of malcontents.“

Counterprotests had in fact been suggested by some leftist activists around the country. In one e-mail, a Boston-based anarchist collective urged readers to ”Stop, Disrupt, andor Generally Harass the Pro-Capitalist March. If you feel that fringe racist groups are dangerous, then think about the damage capitalism and it‘s [sic] supporters cause around the world.“ Local activists were more circumspect. One wrote in an e-mail, ”It seems to me that it’s so poorly organized that giving them attention is the only way they could feel like they accomplished something. Besides, I have other important stuff to do this Sunday.“

The latter position seems to have prevailed. The only reactions the march elicited were a few honks of support from passersby and the puzzled expressions of fellow pedestrians. But Zach Hinds, 19, who just moved from Nebraska to Corona to be nearer to the Ayn Rand Institute in Marina del Rey and currently works selling plush Grinch dolls door to door (”I‘m a real capitalist,“ he said), wasn’t ready to let his guard down. An hour into the march, when the group had reached the corner of Ninth Street, Hinds said he still thought counterprotesters would show. ”I‘m expecting something,“ he said with a smile.

But the group marched on without further event. After a brief rest to catch their breath, they walked past Staples Center and turned around at Pico. A few blocks later, they decided against completing a full circuit back to First Street. Their energy -- if not their enthusiasm for commerce -- flagging, the group descended into the Seventh-and-Fig underground mall in search of the food court. Capitalism, by all reports, survived the weekend.

Related Content

Now Trending

Los Angeles Concert Tickets


  • 21st Annual Classic Cars "Cruise Night" in Glendale
    On Saturday, spectators of all ages were out in multitudes on a beautiful summer night in Glendale to celebrate the 21st annual Cruise Night. Brand Boulevard, one of the main streets through downtown Glendale, was closed to traffic and lined with over 250 classic, pre-1979 cars. There was plenty of food to be had and many of the businesses on Brand stayed open late for the festivities The evening ended with fireworks and a 50th anniversary concert from The Kingsmen, who performed their ultimate party hit, "Louie, Louie." All photos by Jared Cowan.
  • The World Cup Celebrated And Mourned By Angelenos
    The World Cup has taken Los Angeles by storm. With viewings beginning at 9 a.m., soccer fans have congregated at some of the best bars in the city including The Village Idiot, Goal, The Parlour on Melrose, Big Wang's and more. Whether they're cheering for their native country, favorite players or mourning the USA's loss, Angelenos have paid close attention to the Cup, showing that soccer is becoming more than a fad. All photos by Daniel Kohn.
  • La Brea Tar Pits "Pit 91" Re-Opening
    Starting June 28th, The Page Museum once again proudly unveils the museum's Observation Pit, which originally opened in 1952 but has spent most of the last half century closed. Now visitors can get an up-close look at Pit 91, which is currently under excavation. The La Brea Tar Pits, home of the Page Museum, is one of the world's most famous ice age fossil locations, known for range of fossils from saber-toothed cats and mammoths to microscopic plants, seeds and insects. The new "Excavator Tour" is free with museum admission if purchased online at tarpits.org . All photos by Nanette Gonzales.