The 90-degree weather, dust, sweating bodies, odors of incense, outlandishly clad and bull-horn yelling protesters, and the eventual arrival of riot police on the streets of downtown was a stimulating direct contrast to the calm, air-conditioned, organized quiet drone of the Democratic National Convention inside the Staples Center last week.
On the streets and corners of Figueroa Street and Olympic Boulevard people voiced their opinions and outrage over issues ranging from opposition to abortion, INS border abuse, LAPD brutality and festering politics.
Charles Delvalle, a computer technician for the 29 Palms Marine base, dressed as Uncle Fester from “The Adams Family,” was carrying a sign championing “Uncle Fester for President.”
“I figure I could do a better job than Uncle Sam,” said Delvalle. “The country and the convention has been festering too long.”
Not everyone was protesting an issue or problem.
Rachel, a petite blond, blue-eyed woman, with her six equally blond blue-eyed children, were all carrying signs claiming to the population at hand “Jesus loves you.”
“I’m just standing for Jesus Christ,” she said as to why she was there.
And then there were the militant protesters.
“It’s going to get gory with Gore,” abortion protesters yelled repeatedly through a bull-horn as they propped up huge signs depicting the gruesome aftermath of third-trimester abortions.
Inside the convention center, “Go Al go” was the contrasting chant by delegates during Vice President and Democratic presidential nominee Al Gore’s speech Thursday night where he detailed large ideas such as day care and preschool for all children of America and healthcare for all Americans.
The seeming goal of all, inside and outside the convention center, was to get their message out to the public-at-large. And, with the teeming roaming media–all may have accomplished that.
The earlier part of the last day of the convention was calm out in the streets. Few police were seen until a couple of protesters got heated up over differing views.
Men carrying signs that said “Jail to the Chief” (a pun on “Hail to the Chief”) and “God Hates Sin” were confronted by a whistle-blowing young man wearing a paper hat that said “Pink Newsletter Press.” A full-blown argument ensued, with a crowd following the men across the street and then . . . seemingly out of nowhere, a battalion of police cars filled with riot police packed the intersection.
Filing into formation, the police advanced on the scene grunting “huh!” in unison as they surrounded the crowded corner, forcing journalists, protesters and looky-loos away. A man was arrested as TV and print journalists shoved microphones into his face vying for a “comment” as the police led him away.
This type of scene was nowhere to be found inside the convention center, as secret service, LAPD, and SWAT team members lined the halls and walls of the building.
Allowed access backstage where the really important stuff happens — make-up, prepping and lounging in the Laker’s locker room before a speaker goes onstage to rattle off what every other speaker has rattled before them,– I entered the halls of the elite.
The secret service, looking just like they do in the movies–black suits, black ear-pieces and extremely serious expressions, lined the halls of backstage. They appeared too formidable for me to snap any photos, or ask anyone any questions, much less breathe more than was necessary lest I be carried away for threatening the lives of the important ones by taking up too much oxygen.
During Gore’s speech the delegates dutifully waved their flags and chanted encouragement.
One reporter had highlighted pre-released speech notes, saying that those were the key parts of the speech that would receive the most applause and approval– and he was right.
Whereas outside, no one had notes, just their burning desire to be heard, ending their evening by marching from the Staples Center to police headquarters one last time before the end of a raucous week.