As has been the case in the other marches I have covered in recent months, the people chant “si se puede!" It means “yes we can,” and thus far they have successfully shut down the famous Wilshire Boulevard in preparation for the march to La Brea.
I see few other immigrants; there is a rare Caucasian or black face; this rally is definitely comprised of Latin culture and of people who adamantly want citizenship or legality of some kind.
As one man tells me in Spanish, "I just want a way to work here legally; right now it is hard to know the path or the rules."
As I press him, he agrees that controls of some sort need to be installed along the border, basically stricter rules than exist right now.
His feelings seem widespread. In fact whether in English or in Spanish, people seem to have the same ideals, the same desires. By no means is this a scientific sampling, but it is a comfortable assumption.
But those ideas are not what can be heard over the loudspeakers. The leaders of this march, or the people who have been allowed to hijack the microphone, yell about imperialism and racism. One man in particular tries to warn the marchers that America and George Bush want to "conquer your country," and "he will not give you freedom here!" Of course never is there a mention from these same critics of the President's guest worker proposal.
As the rally continues and the speakers at the loudspeakers scream to the point that it sounds like static, there are signs of all sizes, shapes and colors. The chants are like drumbeats, and whistles are almost as common as conversations.
I see many strollers; I snap a picture of one, the child waving the flag, just like his father towering over him.
Above the rally, people have climbed trees, lampposts and statues honoring Los Angeles’ Spanish heritage. Above them, LAPD helicopters buzz the crowd, watching for any illegal or unsafe activity. So far, thankfully, everything is calm.
There are some fringe groups who have joined the boycott. I see socialist and even Nicaraguan Sandinista flags and shirts. A group chanting for transgender rights has set up shop along a sidewalk on Park View, which runs opposite Wilshire Boulevard. There are a few anarchists, and some who just don't seem like they are happy to be in the United States. I wonder why they stay.
At 3:30, the rally starts early; the crowd has chanted and sung for several hours, and it can't wait until the 4 p.m. start time.
As the thousands start to move, I get what seems like millions of smiles and waves from my perch about 4 feet above the crowd. My colleague, Geraldo, shows up and the crowd roars and applauds.
As the day marches toward an end and the protest moves west into the setting sun, a 9-year-old girl provides me with both the high and low points of my day.
First she asks me why the police and white people want to "round up all the Hispanics and send us home."
Her parents don't speak English and have joined her at my side. I tell her that someone has lied and not to be afraid.
I learn that she was born here, but fears for her friends. I reassure the family that what worries them is also what makes America great. We can disagree, rally, even boycott without fear of attack, or fear of government.
The girl seems pleased with my response, and the concern I had about her question is erased by her smile.
Within minutes they are gone, the march has begun and the debate continues.