Sunday, July 1, 2018

"Families Belong Together" Rally In Redondo Beach (06.30.18)

It's looking to be an absolutely beautiful Sunday morning here in Redondo Beach, CA. The typical marine layer is starting to burn off, and it's going to remain in the low 70s. Redondo Beach, for those of you unaware, is a suburb of Los Angeles. We're part of a loosely-defined area called the South Bay which not only includes the three beach cities (Redondo, Hermosa and Manhattan) but also extends to areas like Palos Verdes and Torrance, San Pedro and Wilmington, El Segundo and Hawthorne, and more. There's an amazing amount of diversity in the South Bay... racially, economically, nationality, and every other way. But there's one thing that almost all of us have in common: we hate leaving the South Bay.

It's true. Sure, we venture into DTLA, Hollywood, the Valley, OC, and similar places for various reasons of work and entertainment. But we all scurry back to our homes as quickly as possible, and we're always glad to be back. Therefore, when we heard about the upcoming plans for a nationwide series of events to protest the separation of children from their parents at the US-Mexico border called Families Belong Together, we were somewhat saddened that up until a few days ago, out of the 700+ events listed, the closest ones were in Downtown LA or Long Beach. It's not that we wouldn't or couldn't have gone to one or the other. It's more about the fact that as a local community, it would have been really great to show our South Bay neighbors that many of us share the compassion we feel for these families.

I'll let you know right now that I'm not going to get into the pro and con arguments of immigration in this little blog post. Putting that entire conversation aside, I think it's safe to say that many Americans, across party lines, agree that it's simply inhumane and horrifying to tear a family apart as a purely punitive aspect. Seeing the footage of children being held in detention camps, and the reports of actual baby jails -- a thought so terrible that it caused Rachel Maddow to get choked up on air -- transcended the discussion of creating paths to legal immigration. The implications of our country going down a path that only the worst dictatorships had been down before was too much to accept without a fight. For that reason, Christina and I were intent on showing our support for this cause that's very important to both of us... even if it meant (sigh) getting in and out of DTLA. And, sweet Lordy, parking!

Arriving and taking out the little sign I'd drawn 30 seconds before leaving home. Hey, it worked. Photo by Christina.

All of that is why we were tremendously excited to find out earlier this week that someone named Yoshi had added a Redondo Beach rally to the event listings. It was to be held on the corner of Hawthorne and Artesia Boulevards, a very high-traffic intersection next to the South Bay Galleria. It's a location that's well known and central to the entire area, adjacent to Torrance and easily accessible by all. Smart move.

We didn't know who this Yoshi person was, or if anyone would actually attend the event, considering its very late addition to the listings. But we did know that if there was going to be an opportunity to be politically active and involved in a community event for a cause about which we're very passionate, we weren't going to blow it off. As we got into our Jeep to drive to the location (like five minutes from our home), I was envisioning a pathetic group of three or four people with signs standing on the corner. I would have gone anyway, if not just for the chance to thank the organizers and show them a little support.

We got there a bit early, about 20 minutes before the 11AM start time. It was funny; I was chatting with Christina as I slowly rolled through the Galleria's many parking areas.

"Hmm, not seeing much happening. Wait, there's a car covered with stickers for 'Bernie' and 'Coexist'. Oh, there are two old ladies holding an 'Impeach Trump' sign. There's a millennial woman in a pussy hat. Yup, this is the right spot."

There looked to be 40-50 people already there, but over the next half hour, the crowd swelled quickly. 100 people. 200 people. Folks gathering on all four corners of the big intersection and on the median. By the time the event was in full swing, it's estimated that our sleepy little community had 350+ people involved. But the energy went beyond the size of the crowd. These weren't just folks doing some political tourism; they were angry, and they weren't going to take 'no' for an answer. And yet, the prevailing feeling in the air was that of positivity, and I think I know why.

Taking it to the streets with my fellow residents of Redondo and all over the South Bay. Photo by Christina.

I feared there would be three people there; I didn't expect more than 300. Photo by Christina.

These people are feeling the power that they have as members of a democracy. We don't always agree on the details, but we do know that the power that we have to change laws -- by changing the leaders who make the laws -- is more important than ever before. In the 2016 election, Trump got 63 million votes, and Hillary got 66 million votes... and another 70 million or more didn't bother voting because they made assumptions about the outcome that turned out to be incorrect in ways that have -- and will continue to -- prove fatal to people in the USA and around the world. You can bet that things will continue to get worse as more SCOTUS appointments open up, and as the underground of racists, xenophobes, homophobes, and other hate-based groups get more and more emboldened.

A little clip of video we shot while departing the event and showing our support for our fellow rally goers.

It's enough to make some people cower in fear, but events like yesterday's Families Belong Together marches and rallies give courage to like-minded folks who might not realize that the grand majority of people agree with their views. And as a result, that encouragement will energize them to flex their power at the polls in the upcoming Midterm elections. I certainly didn't see fear in the eyes at yesterday's event. I saw determination, compassion, and confidence that each of them was an agent to affect change that is desperately needed. There's a long way to go on this issue alone... when and how will the children be reunified with their families? Are each and every one of the children indeed accounted for? What are the conditions in which they live until they are placed back with their parents? None of these have been adequately answered, and there may be no answers, now or ever.

It will surprise no one that Zak Claxton isn't afraid to lead a chant over a megaphone. Photo by Christina.

Power to the people! Photo by Christina.

I'm no politician or community organizer. I'm just some guy. But I vote, and I march, and I make it clear that I refuse to live in fear. If there's a cause that you want to get behind, try doing it from beyond the safety of your computer keyboard or phone. Find your local groups who share your views. Be aware of upcoming events. Take a chance and get out there physically, among the people. I promise that the experience will be worthwhile.

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