Although the Occupy the Rose Parade action was not officially endorsed by Occupy Los Angeles or Pasadena General Assemblies, myself and thousands of others were more than happy at the opportunity to spread the message of the movement at the Rose Parade, an event that would be covered by mainstream and independent media alike. More importantly, however, was the fact that many people who have not been exposed to the message of the Occupy Wall Street movement would be in attendance, and would be able to see the unified, non-violent message that the movement stands for.
We arrived at Singer Park at roughly 7:30AM to be greeted by ecstatic occupiers, ready to march through the parade route with a message of peace, solidarity, and to make their grievances known to the world. Throughout the park, occupiers readied themselves with their signs and props (one of which being a gigantic cloth version of the U.S. Constitution, signed by thousands of people), eager to jump on the route.
Another photographer and myself set out before the group to head towards the top of Orange Grove, where the parade officially commences, and where the march would follow the last float. We milled about the crowd for a while, amusing ourselves with non-occupy related photography until the march kicked off.
At roughly 9:30AM, the last float inched by, and not far behind, Occupiers followed. Not many people truly knew what to expect numbers-wise, including myself; however, I think we were all pleasantly surprised to find the numbers to be in the 1,000 to 2,000 range at the beginning. People of all ages, children included, marched on, signs displayed proudly in their hands, voices proudly chanting in unison.
Although, technically, any group or persons can follow the last float and walk the route, Occupy was recognized immediately, and was met with mostly cheers, and, of course, a few jeers. Three religious zealots, one armed with a megaphone, decided to tail the end of the march and attempt to discredit Occupy with the same ol’ “get a job” rhetoric.
As protesters rounded the bend onto Colorado Blvd., the amount of people that were to witness the march was quite possibly tripled; the streets lined with onlookers, many offering smiles or a “thumbs up.” The most gratifying, however, was noting people soaking in the march; eyes straining to read each sign, understanding these people had a message, and that they were passionate about it.
As the march continued, people came down out of the grandstands and off the street to join Occupy protestors in solidarity. The number of marchers then grew substantially. What more could we have asked for? Some mainstream news (msm) outlets estimated the numbers to be in the hundreds. They lie.
The march turned north up Marengo St. and settled in a small, closed-off block in front of City Hall, where the Occupy presence would remain for hours. A large critique of this decision, and a credible one, was that Occupy marchers, by turning up Marengo St., and off the path of the march, lost a solid opportunity to be viewed by thousands more along the parade route.
The Occupy group, being as large as it was, needed to be broken up into three separate groups by traffic police to allow a healthy flow of traffic through while the tail end of Occupiers made their way to the hub near City Hall. Following the last of the group were two specially outfitted Sheriff pick-up trucks with officers in riot gear standing along the sides of the rear of the vehicle. One or two occupiers began yelling provocative language at the officers, when an Occupy Peace Keeper did her job (well), and calmed the upset folk until they ceased. The trucks moved through and we lost sight of them.
Occupy was given a space to set up between Holly St. (between Marengo and City Hall). Along the opposite side of the road where the Sheriff’s truck had driven by, a small squad of Sheriffs in riot gear (maybe 10 to 12) lined up on the opposite side of a road closure blockade that had been erected. After heading over towards them, they got the order to fall back, and they marched away with haste. A Sheriff (not in riot gear) pleasantly answered questions about the Sheriffs in riot gear, and all of the Sheriff vehicles lined up in front of City Hall. He assured us that what we witnessed was merely standard operating procedure, that it was the command post set up annually for the parade, and that had it had nothing to do with Occupy’s presence. For the rest of the day, Sheriff presence was reduced to a few non-riot gear officers standing in the background chatting, and seemingly interested in the goings on.
Occupy’s involvement was seemingly well received, and one can only hope it had a hand in opening some closed eyes. Unfortunately, KTLA pulled the plug on their coverage immediately after the last float, curtailing any chance of Occupiers to be seen on national television—no surprise to anyone, I am sure. Perhaps, much to the chagrin of naysayers, it seems as though it may be hard to argue that Occupy’s “occupation” and march (even with a lost opportunity at visibility) through the Rose Parade was anything but a success.
Thank you to all involved.
And, please, by all means, share these photos. Spread this message.