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Freak-Out at the Free Speech Zone

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We know it's old news by now, but we're still recovering. We got fucked up and took the train to the protest in Hollywood on the 31st; the one that coincided with the State of the Union address, encouraging people to "bring the noise," banging pots and pans in a march from Hollywood/Highland to the CNN building at the corner of Sunset and Cahuenga. We left shaking with paranoia and fear.

The whole thing played out like a bad acid trip. We got there late; it was already dark. Walking from the subway exit at Vine, we saw little sign of the promised revolution. Two teenagers passed us; they were wearing black outfits with green bandanas covering their mouths.

"Stop the terrorists!" They shouted, "Down with Bush!" They looked, weirdly, like little terrorists themselves.

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We walked on. At the corner of Ivar and Hollywood, we stopped in front of a liquor store. We were aware of the two black helicopters turning tight circles over our heads. Three men walked hurriedly up the emptied street; one aging hippie and two guys wearing rainbow flags.

"Good exercise," the hippie commented as he passed, "Well, I'll see you next time." They parted ways.

We stood there in momentary shock: Was this it? The whole protest? A gay couple, an old man, and a pair of punk kids? Where was the mainstream of progressive Angelino society? Where were the pro-choice soccer moms, enfuriated at Alito's confirmation? Where were the left-leaning industry salarymen, just off work?

The helicopters kept circling, and a roaring noise grew in the distance. There they were. They were coming. Traffic cops had coned off the center of Hollywood Blvd., emptying all the eastbound lanes and leaving the westbound traffic to grumble in gridlock. A man and woman in a car were stopped coming North on Ivar and told to turn back; the man argued with the cop that he was going two blocks down Hollywood — he qualified as "local access," and it would take him an hour to get there if he went down to Sunset and around through the traffic. The cop was unsympathetic. He said, "You'll have to go around the parade." The parade?