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The Million-Dollar March

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.“

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.


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