By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
The day before, Elsner and two colleagues held a clandestine meeting with a high-powered media expert in the lobby of the Biltmore Hotel in downtown L.A. For 45 minutes, at a posh bar, they talked strategy. The consultant gave them free advice on how to handle the press and the Koch brothers, but didn't offer to pay for drinks. The young activists, who are operating on a shoestring budget, drank water.
When Elsner and Molina arrive at East Wilmington Greenbelt Park, in one of Southern California's many tattered neighborhoods, Elsner can't stop talking about the toxic smell coming from the nearby refinery.
Suddenly they find themselves in the company of pumped-up students from Banning High School who went through a lockdown the previous day, after a 17-year-old boy was fatally shot in the head near their campus.
The 30 or so teenagers are decked out in tight punk-rock clothes that would fit comfortably in 1970s New York City: black T-shirts, black jeans, black sneakers. It's not just a fashion statement.
rockeros' clothing and music are "survival tactics," Molina says. "If you wear baggy clothes or listen to hip-hop," she explains, "someone may mistake you for a gang member, and you could get shot." Saving whales and green jobs isn't at the forefront of these kids' minds, but protecting their immediate safety is.
Joined by older activists and students from other parts of the South Bay, the rockeros march through their working-class neighborhood, holding up placards, chanting and thrusting their arms in the air. One girl with pink hair yells, "Our lungs are not for sale! Prop. 23 will fail!" The chant is spontaneous, and everyone joins in. "Our lungs are not for sale! Prop. 23 will fail!"
Minutes later, Elsner, who marches with them, is looking pleased. "They may not be able to vote," he says, grinning, "but they may be our next student leaders in a few years." If they end up in college, the rockeros might say that a "No on 23" march near some oil tanks in the fall of 2010 was the day they became part of the big, green brawn that beat down Big Oil.
Contact the writer at email@example.com.
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