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Monday, January 30, 2017

Protest at LAX

I've lived in Los Angeles since 1976, so even though I know it is one of those painful necessities of Southern California living, I have on many occasions protested going to LAX. Today was the first time I ever went to LAX to protest.

Los Angeles International Airport is the world's seventh busiest airport in terms of passenger traffic, and that what counted today. On an average day in 2016 221,702 passengers used LAX, but Sunday is not an average day. Sunday is its biggest day. I don't know how many protesters were at the airport today at its peak. I don't know how many are there now, but people were still arriving as I was leaving. I don't even know how to estimate it. Aerial photos will be of limited use because so many were indoors or under shelters, and even on open ground, once a crowd grows to more than a few thousand, I find it impossible to estimate crowd size, particularly one that is constantly in motion, as this one was. But one way to gage the size of today's protest is to note that on any given Sunday, LAX is design to move 300,000 passengers in and out and the number of people that almost spontaneously showed up at LAX to protest Trump's Muslim ban was enough to bring traffic through LAX to a screeching halt. Believe me. I have the sore feet to prove it.

I first heard about the protest on the Saturday evening news. Hundreds, some said thousands of people, were protesting at the Tom Bradley International terminal. I had just gotten off of work and was sorely tempted to set off for LAX for a night vigil, but decided against. The fight against Trump will be a long one. Its important to pace oneself.

I set off the next morning after a good breakfast and a quick visit with some friends on the beach. Rode my bike down to Lincoln, locked it up next to the Chinese fast food joint, and caught the No. 3 Big Blue Bus to the LAX Metro bus terminal, and from there caught the free airport shuttle bus. It was still fairly early and there appeared to be only a few other protesters among my fellow travelers.

I had the driver drop me just ahead of the line of TV trucks already parked just south of the international terminal, and made my way to the baggage claim and custom exit area on the lower level of the terminal. There I found a lively protest of several hundred already in progress and I think some of those protesters had been there all night.

I started shooting video and tweeting with my smartphone:

Then I tried to live stream. That did it. My battery was down to 0% in no time flat! Anticipating that, I had bought an AC charger with me, but it was a slow one. I found one of those seats close to an AC outlet [that are always so prized at airports]. It was also close enough that I could watch the protest while watching my phone charge. A big demonstration had been called for noon or 1 o'clock, depending on who you asked, and another one at 5:00pm had been announced. So I had plenty of time and wanted to be ready. I must have stayed there for about an hour.

Congresswoman Maxine Waters came strolling past me at one point with a couple of aides (or body guards?) in tow. I think she meant to be incognito, just checking it out, LAX is in her district, but I recognized her and talked with her briefly. She is hard on Trump, but so am I. I don't know if she recognized me, but I have talked with her more than a few times at those community meetings she would hold in various locations in South Central. They would go on for hours with no fanfare and no media, and then she'd stay after, even in the parking lot, driver/security standing next to the limo, until absolutely everyone who wanted to speak to her had a chance. This time she was in and out in a flash. She didn't speak to the protesters or hang around for more than a few minutes that I saw.

At one point I thought the protest was diminishing. I didn't realize that it was just moving outside until I went looking for coffee. Then I was blown away by what I found. It now must have been about 2:00pm and thousands of people were already protesting outside the terminal, and it just kept growing from there. The people protesting were like a cross section of Los Angeles, which also means they were mainly young, and mainly Caucasian. Everybody was in great spirits, everybody was feeling the power of the people. Everybody wanted a peaceful protest, even the LAPD. They were cool to this point.
LAX Protest around 1:30pm  - LA Times photo
From my vantage point, protesters were everywhere. Spreading out into the streets on the lower deck, peering down from the upper deck, hanging signs and banners from the garages across the way. Protesters were everywhere and still they kept coming. Spirits were high.

I saw some black bloc types but I think they just got overwhelmed, as would have any Left groups that tried to steal the march. Traffic through the airport was finally bought to a halt not because protesters willfully adopted the tactic of blocking traffic, people really were trying to follow the cops directions to stay on the pavement or at least keep some lanes open, but the number just grew and grew and the cops' requests became a physical impossibility, as they were forced to give up one lane and then another until all traffic was brought to a halt and the only thing moving around the airport was the people of Los Angeles in protest, now easily in the tens of thousands, marching around the airport on the lower and upper decks.
a little later ABC7 photo

Around 5:00pm I decided to pack it in. I was never able to re-charge my phone so I couldn't do more recording or tweeting, and I was tired. But leaving now proved a lot more difficult than arriving. The only ground transportation that seem to be working was walking, so after an aborted effort on an overcrowded shuttle bus going nowhere, I did something else I never did before, I walked out of LAX.

On my trek out, I was joined by many of my fellow protesters of the day, and we were passing a stream of travelers and new protesters going into the airport. It seems there is only one safe footpath from LA to LAX and many discovered it this evening for the first time.

As I made my way to the bus depot for the return trip to Venice, I was tired but had the warm feeling that we're going to be alright in spite of Trump. Trump and Baghdadi of ISIS need each other and feed each other. The people standing with the banned Muslims is the worst nightmare of them both.

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