Wow, that's a lot of cop cars. I must be getting close. I pull over to the side of the road to let a convoy of 20 or 30 police cars, sirens blaring and full of cops, pass by me on Wilshire Boulevard. It's 5:30, the height of rush hour. Traffic is normally slow. But now it's completely stopped.
Fortunately, I know what's going on, and I'm on my bike. After a few minutes delay, I hop on my bike and resume racing down Wilshire, passing mile upon mile of stopped cars. It's exhilerating.
At this point, I still harbor vague illusions that I'll be able to make it back in time for class -- I've got an hour, after all. That's plenty of time.
Normally, my Thursday evenings are spent going to my billiards class and generally goofing off. It's a good way to spend an evening and let some stress off. And, as this week had been particularly stressful for me, I was more than a little excited to take my brain off of classwork and paper-writing to spend an evening hitting balls with sticks. But, alas, as I sat there idly writing code for a class project, my cell phone buzzed. It was a text from my friend J.
J: "Huge no on 8 protest on wilshire just past westwood. Bring a bike and your sense of justice!"
Me: "What're people doing?"
J: "Closed off the streets! We're marching west! It's huge, cops, news. We're stalled right now but people are trying to push through"
(Perhaps you have not heard of Proposition 8 -- although evidence suggests that's unlikely. It's an amendment to California's constitution defining marriage as being valid between a man and a woman. The measure was proposed to counteract the supreme court's egregious finding that discriminating based on sexual orientation was, you know, maybe not so cool. It passed, sadly, 52-48%.)
I'm not sure if I was motivated more by my anger at injustice or my desire to flake out on classwork. It didn't much matter. I hopped on my bike, muttered a quick goodbye to my officemate, and peddled furiously south of campus.
And now, here I am, on one of the most major streets in LA, and it's completely shut down.
Luckily, I have no trouble getting ahold of J -- he's at the tail end of the march when I meet up with him, and I hop off my bike and start walking. We're in a crowd of thousands, marching and chanting. Sometimes in unison.
"Where are we marching to?" I ask. "The Mormon temple." I know the temple. I used to live right across the street from it. It's huge. Mormon donors (many from out of state) contributed a significant fraction of the Yes On 8 campaign's funding. And the crowd is marching to their temple to vent. I'm ambivalent about this -- it's frustrating to feel like someone else's religious beliefs are being foisted on you, but I worry that targeting particular groups like this will only serve to foster divisions.
But I don't dwell on this too much. I'm too caught up in the swell of people, chanting "Gay, straight, black, white: marriage is a civil right!" at the top of my lungs, driving myself hoarse. I talk to a man who looks like a young, gay Jesus, whose husband was one of the lawyers that helped overturn Colorado's anti-sodomy laws. He seems nice.
We make it to the temple. The crowd stops. Puts signs up on the fences. Helicopters, ten of them, perhaps, are circling overhead, passing cars are honking at us, in (I choose to believe) support. The police are being remarkably decent: they're clearly not too thrilled with us, but they are extraordinarily efficient about clearing the roads, blocking off side streets, and keeping things safe.
A couple has an impromptu Jewish wedding in front of the temple. Not legal, of course -- I don't even know if they're really a couple -- but it's cute. Everybody cheers.
But then we're restless. The crowd's enthusiasm is waning, and people don't feel like milling around anymore. "March! March! March!" We have huge swaths of the city yet to explore, and we want to move!
We set turn around and set off north. And we keep going. We march through West Hollywood and into Beverly Hills. My feet are killing me, but I'm exhilarated. I yell, I start chants, I smile at befuddled club-goers on the sidewalks. I don't know if I'm here more to support the cause or for the pure pleasure of walking down the middle of major streets and basking in the attention. I don't care. I keep marching.
I can't really bring myself to believe this is going to accomplish anything. The measure was a constitutional amendment. Short of a federal-level constitutional challenge (unlikely) or another ballot measure to overturn it (very likely, but it'll be a few years), I don't see what can be done. Maybe this will raise attention to our frustrations. It's been getting press -- apparently our rally made it to CNN for a short while. I hope that we make the issue a little more tangible, a little more real to some of the people we pass on the sidewalks.
But I don't think about that now. I'm caught up in the emotion and the noise. I keep marching.