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News

Photo Essay: Thousands In Downtown Protest Prop H8

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UPDATE BELOW THE JUMP.

Braving unseasonably (and unbearably) hot summer-like weather*, thousands of equality supporting Angelenos gathered this morning in Downtown to protest the nefarious assault on the civil rights of gay Americans, the much reviled Proposition 8. It was a fitting end to a week that's seen a tremendous (albeit much too late) backlash against the measure - Protests at Mormon temples, a boycott of a longstanding staple of West Hollywood dining - even the Governator threw his belated 2 cents in.

Police estimated that around 10 to 12,000 people showed up. We managed to make it out there ourselves and though it's entirely possible we're suffering from sunstroke, our experience says that 12,000 is a conservative number. We'll have to wait and see if a different estimate comes in. Meanwhile, 12 or 40,000, it felt like half the city was there. Here's our experience, in picture.

UPDATE: There's still no official count aside from the LAPD estimates reported by the LA Times, but here's something kind of interesting - CNN is reporting that in Los Angeles, "thousands of demonstrators were met by counter-demonstrators." According to the moribund news channel's website, these protesters were shouting:

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"There is nothing civil about a man marrying another man," one protester yelled. "You lost. It is not a civil rights issue. It is an issue with morality."

Now I don't want to besmirch the already shaky reputation of "The Most Trusted Name in News", but this sounds like CNN might be trying to find fair and balanced storytelling where it doesn't exist. I'd expect Fox to report on this in a way that implies strongly that gay rights are controversial in California, that this bill represents the immutable will of the electorate, despite reports of confusion and outright lying on the part of Pro prop 8 advocates. So maybe CNN felt similarly and decided that the story needed to be reported that way, no matter what happened, so the rubes who voted for prop 8 won't get the vapors.

But what do I know? Maybe there was a mass of extremely vocal, newsworthy bigots shouting down the anti discrimination marchers. Sure, why not?

But it's telling that they used leading language - "thousands of demonstrators were met by counter-demonstrators" - suggesting an equal or at least comparable number of counter protesters to protesters.

It's also telling that (abandoning third person for a moment) I was actually there in person, and I didn't see anything remotely resembling this dubious report.

What I did see was a tiny trickle of very sad looking people carrying yes on Prop 8 signs and looking like the heat was about to kill them, but these people represented maybe 1/10 thousandth of the total body count. I think. I saw exactly 3 of them. They were also silent, tired looking and didn't appear to be mustering anything even remotely close to a newsworthy counter effort. Perhaps certain LAist commenters might think this warrants, ahem, equal treatment, but if we learned anything from the CTW, it's that one of these things is not like the other. Which is to say, one exists, and the other, as far as I can tell, simply doesn't.

I'm not a big shot TV news director or a highly paid pundit, so I obviously am in no position to talk, much less publish my thoughts, but if I've learned anything from my rather less-than-awe inspiring journalism career, it's that a newsworthy counter-protest consists of, you know, something approaching comparable numbers of people. 3 people shouting at the massive, thousands of people strong rally? That's not a counter protest, that's a couple of sad, cranky bigots, desperate for attention, shouting at a reporter too lazy to think of any other way to report on the story.

Think back to the way the pre-war protests were covered. Thousands, in some cases hundreds of thousands of people would converge on every major city you can think of, shouting for the homicidal maniacs in the Bush Administration (and their spineless, sycophantic enablers in the Democratic party) to stop rushing the nation towards a clearly unjustifiable war based on total bullshit. Meanwhile, 14 inbred rednecks carrying misspelled signs accusing war opponents of being faggots would stand to the side of a tiny portion of the protest route, shouting idiotic platitudes about how these colors don't run, and FREEDOM ISN'T FREE!**, and the media (especially CNN) would treat it as if the entire populations of West point, the Citadel and the University of Texas had shown up and their numbers positively dwarfed the liberal hippie commies who didn't want to liberate Iraq. it was probably the single most stroke-inducing frustration of the lead up to the war.

However, I'll admit that I'm not omnipotent. Perhaps one of our astute readers saw something I didn't, but until I hear the first person run down from someone I actually trust, I'm calling ratings plummeting, increasingly irrelevant bullshit.

***

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The march that started in front of City Hall on Spring took more than 2 hours for the crowd to wind around first street, down main and finally into Chinatown where it dispersed, peacefully BTW, and outraged citizens went home sweaty and exhausted but hopefully, if they survived sunstroke, a little closer to restoring full rights to California's same sex relationships.

The one thing that stood out, sadly, is the fact that had this kind of action occurred in October, we probably could have stopped Prop 8 in it's tracks. Yes, the advocates of Prop 8 shamelessly lied through their supposedly-god fearing teeth, and yes, the Mormon church nefariously fudged the Separation of Church and State to the point of Absurdity (why aren't they getting audited by the IRS anyway?). But that's no excuse for the shameful lack of action that prefaced the election. Hopefully, lesson learned, and by 2010, one way or another, this nonsense will be behind us, gay people can get back to marrying, and desperately intrusive Funduhmentalist Christians can find some other groups' underwear to sniff around in.


*seriously, I know it's daylight savings but I didn't realize that "fall back" meant back to July. Christ! But seriously, in case anyone mistakes this for not caring about the fires, rest assured A) that we know the heat is due in part to the fires and B) holy hell we really would prefer that city not burn down and that thousands not lose their homes or their lives.

** it's costs one dollar and five cents.