More on the L.A peace rally
As I’ve mentioned here before, I helped organize the L.A. rally, and was a volunteer on the lead team and backstage security.
The logistics of a big rally are considerable, and I thought people might be interested in what happens.
Those volunteering on the day of the L.A. march were divided into several teams. One team in the lead in front of the main banner, one in the middle, another at the end. Plus a floating hotspot team, stage team, and multiple teams walking along side the march at predesignated intervals.
The lead team, the one I was one, attempts to rope off the area in advance of the main banner. This is done not because we are twits, but to insure the lead banner always leads the march, with enough space in front for photographers to take photos.
We rope off the area with yellow rope, sometimes going a few hundred feet ahead of the main banner asking in a friendly manner for people to move off the street and join the march behind the banner. It involves a lot of fast moving and running back and forth and I enjoy doing it.
The floating hotspot team has the task of defusing potential problems. This could be anything from a noisy drunk to a counter-demonstration to serious threat of violence. These people have to know what they’re doing. The method is to have one, and only one person, act as speaker. The others remain quiet, monitor the situation, and route the crowd around it if needed.
This is always done in a non-confrontative manner. Generally it’s best if a woman does the speaking as men (who are usually the ones making a ruckus) will take “calm down” from a woman better than from a man. One of our most effective people here is a petite Latina in her early twenties.
Special note must be given to Don White, one of the main organizers, who has decades of experience. He has an almost supernatural gift for walking into volatile situations, defusing the tension, and relaxing people. I’m told he has, more than once, successfully negotiated extremely tense and potentially violent situations between police and demonstrations.
Don White could stop a charging rhino, and not only would the rhino stop, he would walk away happy he’d made a new friend. While my comment may seem a bit flip, it’s also true. Don has a gift for peace-making, and I am in awe of it.
The march itself was fun and peaceful. The rally lasted about two hours, and the mix of speakers was excellent. Lots of different viewpoints. Rabbis, Muslims, high school organizers, Gore Vidal, United Teachers of L.A., Rob Reiner, the excellent reggae rap funk band Burning Star, Martin Sheen, AFL-CIO, street poetry, and more.
The Black Bloc anarchists did a breakaway march and some people got thumped by the police. Because we had open communications with the anarchists, they respected our event and staged their action away from us.
Staging an event like this requires permits from multiple City of L.A. departments, plus lots of negotiating with police, etc. The National Lawyers Guild does a huge amount of mostly unrecognized work here. Events like this could not occur without them.