Politics & Policy

A Clash of Demonstrations

Two sides of the immigration issue show up in Hollywood.

The immigration protest has gone Hollywood complete with superheroes, villains, and furry cartoon dinosaurs.

Saturday’s march past the stars on the Walk of Fame didn’t start off having anything to do with amnesty or reconquista. Rather, it was supposed to be a cry of support for imprisoned Border Patrol agents Jose Compean and Ignacio Ramos and Edwards County (Texas) Sheriff’s Deputy Gilmer Hernandez (all convicted on federal charges involving incidents in which illegal immigrants were shot and wounded). And it was, with signs of support for the “Texas Three” and tearful appearances from Hernandez’s wife and Ramos’s father.

Then the ANSWER Coalition, happy to cast themselves in the role of antagonists, showed up to call everyone Nazis and scream choice sayings such as “You are white; you are a racist!”

Even though this was a location shoot for them — ANSWER’s offices being a block away — their procession to the Hollywood & Vine Metro station was notable for its comparatively low numbers. The call to counterprotest was posted on all the proper far-left websites, but the crowd of Che-shirt-wearing extras that showed up was only about half as large as the crowd of supporters of the “Texas Three.”

Whereas the color palette for the officers’ cohort was red, white, and blue, the counterdemonstrators seemed to have favored the costume design of Subcomandante Marcos — faces covered by rags, black as the new black, and “brown power” T-shirts for a dash of revolutionary flair.

ANSWER’s props included the amplified bullhorns and signs equating Minutemen to the Ku Klux Klan, as well as the standard Aztec dancers with incense and drums. One counterprotester felt no need for cumbersome signs and simply feigned masturbation at the flag-waving crowd; another masked guy in camouflage waved a hole-pocked American flag upside down, with “God less Amerikkka/This flag kills” scrawled across what remained of the stripes. “Burn that stupid flag!” urged one of his friends.

When it came to their director — the cause of success or failure for so many Hollywood projects — the counterdemonstrators were outdone.

Ted Hayes, the “Rasta Republican” who founded the Dome Village to shelter L.A.’s homeless, was at the mic, perched atop a truck bed. The founder of the Crispus Attucks Brigades, an African-American anti-illegal-immigration group named after that American patriot killed at the Boston Massacre, rallied a crowd that was far more diverse than any prime-time television series made in this liberal town.

To Hayes’s left was a black man wearing a multicolored hat with “Malcolm X” sewn into the front and waving a large American flag. To Hayes’s right was David Hernandez, a grassroots L.A. activist who fought to keep the cross that had been on the Los Angeles County seal since its design in 1957 from being removed (and it was removed, under pressure from the ACLU — and without voter input — in 2004).

“The first casualty of political correctness is truth,” said onetime congressional candidate Hernandez, as tourists milled outside the Pantages Theatre. “The second is justice. The third is freedom.”

The ANSWER group’s script was a little less refined. “Get your white ass back to Europe, stupid bitch!” one young man shouted at a woman in her 50s. Another pocket of protesters yelled, “Death to the Minutemen! Power to the worker!”

Their acting wasn’t much better. I watched as one protester, holding a sign denoting racist pigs on one side and terrorist Nazis on the flip side, argued with a policeman who was telling him to get on his group’s side — behind a row of LAPD bike officers separating the two groups. The officer turned around, and as he turned back I saw the man cry out and fake being pushed down by the mild-mannered Minutewoman standing behind him, clutching her sign with both hands. Though out of earshot of the cop, I could tell he didn’t buy the performance — part actor, part stuntman, all B-movie — for a minute.

The action scenes weren’t so bad, even if they were confined to the ANSWER Coalition’s side. As they used a sound system to shout down the “Texas Three” rally — including during the opening prayer, Pledge of Allegiance, and national anthem — Hayes jumped off the platform and crossed police lines to confront ANSWER as to whether they had the proper permits for the system (Hayes had ’em). They didn’t take to his presence kindly, and the LAPD (who once shot Hayes with a rubber bullet as he protested for homeless causes at the 2000 Democratic National Convention) took Hayes out and back past their bikes. LAPD officers in riot gear then filed into the ANSWER crowd and took one man out.

As the march proceeded down Hollywood Boulevard to Highland Avenue, past the El Capitan and Kodak theaters, confused tourists gawked at the flag-waving marchers and the bullhorn-screaming counterprotesters barreling down the Walk of Fame. A handful of tourists joined the Ramos/Compean/Hernandez march.

Outside Grauman’s Chinese Theater, a bloated Elvis and Marilyn Monroe peered out curiously from behind the police line. Barney the dinosaur pranced along the sidewalk clapping his big purple hands, probably blissfully unaware of how the people on the opposite sidewalk were being big meanies. Batman, all-American to the core, smiled and posed for a picture with a woman marching with the Stars and Stripes. A Stormtrooper wielding a videocamera, however, wanted to get closer to the action and was pushed back by police when he crossed their bike line.

Only in Hollywood could a protest take on such silver-screen dimensions!

Glancing up at the street sign at the starting point of the protest, I noticed we were in Celia Cruz Square. Glancing down at the stars beneath the ANSWER demonstrators’ feet, I saw Desi Arnaz — two Cuban entertainers who immigrated legally and made precious contributions to their adopted homeland. Grammy-winner Cruz, who fled Cuba after Castro came to power, could also tell the neo-Socialist ANSWER Coalition a thing or two about what the tyrant did to her native country.

And far from donning white bedsheets à la Mississippi Burning, the Crispus Attucks Brigades, Save Our State, and Minutemen groups advocate legal immigration. Recognizing this, though, doesn’t fit into the counterdemonstrators’ dramatic, fictional, Klan-rally plot line.

— Bridget Johnson is a columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. She blogs at GOP Vixen.


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