On a gilded Saturday afternoon in what could not yet be called spring, I and an anti-war contingent of thousands massed at Hollywood and Vine for an early dose of renewal. The sun was brighter but the mood was notably darker than it had been a little more than a year ago, when protesters were still giddy with the possibility that the Iraq War might not happen because of their action.
Now, after months of a sour economy, steadily mounting American casualties and the recent terrorist bombings in Madrid that realized the worst fears of war critics who were pointedly not listened to, the crowd was peevish. Signs and banners were less about catchall leftist ideology and creative wordplay than terse messages like “Bush Lied/Our Soldiers Died,” and “Bush Is an Ignorant, Arrogant Asshole.” Unfunny reality at least had the effect of focusing people where they might have been too flippant before; when we finally pushed off and began moving west down the boulevard, there were few of the stragglers, ditchers or idly curious march-crashers that I recall from last time.
The formation was, dare I say, almost military. The cops lining the march route laid back. The whole thing was re-affirming but over much too quickly for me, like Christmas, and I wandered off Highland to Selma feeling a letdown take hold — would this not work, again? Then I thought of Bayard Rustin, the little-known brain behind the historic March on Washington who had agitated for change his whole life. Rustin biographer John D’Emilio said recently that Rustin never thought of not marching because he wasn’t getting a desired outcome — the complete absence of a desired outcome is precisely why he took to the streets, again and again. I resolved to do this again, though I sincerely hope I don’t have to.