Stand Up For Your Rights

I drove, against advice. I knew a secret downtown parking spot near the Ketchum Y, and driving an Insight, I don’t pay meter money in Los Angeles. Those brutish backwaters of West Hollywood and Beverly Hills still charge me to park, heathens! Settled under a gigantic ficus in the shade, I walked the three blocks to the plaza before the iconic Los Angeles City Hall Byzantine art deco phallus, merging with folk of all color, age and sexual identity opposed to Prop 8, the anti-civil rights measure. Banners are hoisted, cheerleaders are hoisted, the air was sparkling, save the occasional smoke plume wafting in from the surrounding fires. It’s a good day to be gay. 

The crowd builds, and the streets are full of excited marchers assembling, listening intently to a bevy of speakers. Only this march, in this place, would feature a self-creation like Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa telling us he “loves us in every sense of the word” (?) followed by Zena, Warrior Princess. Priceless.  Cheerleaders are leading the crowd Bring It On style, flips and pyramids and all. It’s a love fest.

The March begins, up the boulevards and around downtown, past the neoclassical facades, and up to the corner of Temple and Spring, where the overpasses look down on the 210 freeway. BINGO!!! There they are, our target audience: the travelers from the Inland Empire and points east, the Less Enlightened who should be made gently aware. Banners are unfurled along the railings over the pedestrian bridges. Flags are waved. A lovely middle-aged dyke next to me is vigorously waiving a rainbow colored stars and stripes flag back and forth, and cars below us are honking and waving and smiling and so very alive. The dyke and I lock eyes, and a lifetime of suppression and suffering melts away as tears fall freely. The young teens and children and old men surrounding us are all jazzed up beyond measure, and when a big truck comes roaring by below us, belting the air horn for all it’s worth, we are shouting back in war whoops!!!  Next, a police cruiser goes by, honking wildly in support! We cannot believe it: it’s like the movie we wanted to see unfurling before our eyes…

And then the cops come, and ask us to disperse, as we are a nuisance to the drivers. An older gay dude is shouting “Don’t go! We have the right to peaceable assembly! Protect your rights!”
A police cruiser on the 210 shuts down the west bound lanes below us, and we hear his ominous voice through a speaker “Leave the area immediately! You are a hazard. If you don’t take down your banners we will confiscate them.” The irony of his totally stopping traffic to prevent a an alleged traffic stoppage is completely lost on him. A large banner is put away, and part of  the crowd disperses, while the rest of us stubbornly stand our ground. The yellow-shirted organizers ask us to leave. Still we hold our ground. The occasional middle finger from a disgruntled driver does not disturb us. We have a mission. 

The cops lean heavy now, although to be fair they largely stay back, and when I confront two of them over our civil right of assembly, they back off and make sure I know this is a crowd control issue and not a suppressive act. I relent and walk down to Olvera Street, where we have been shunted on our way to a park in Chinatown. The park is lame yet it’s a gas to see the Latino community leaving church checking us all out, mostly smiling and waving. They know that this march is as American as it gets, and they are witnessing history. Pride is everywhere.
We circle back to the overpass and wave frantically and excitedly to the drivers again on our way back to City Hall. Friends stop by: Steve Martin, my Y buddies, straight guys with their gf’s who support us: it’s a totally rad collection of all the best of Los Angeles. 

I am exhausted, and walk back to my car in total silence, pull open the door, grab the much needed and now warm water bottle, sit back, take a sip and cry like a baby. Thank you Los Angeles, and people all across this great land who marched in solidarity with us. The magic fairy dust in the air has coated the country like the ashes in Brea and Riverside. Something good surely came of this momentous day of tragedy and joy for our beloved Golden State.  

2 Responses to “Stand Up For Your Rights”

  1. Very nicely worded Roy: "…a lifetime of suppression and suffering melts away as tears fall freely."

  2. Roy, you're one hell of a writer! I say through my own tears.

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