A Very Successful Rally! [Pictures Added, 3-21-06]

Thanks to all of you who turned out to our rally on Saturday, February 25. A media report placed our crowd at "between 50 and 200." In actuality, I estimate 300 people joined us for at least part of the festivities. There were never 300 people at any one place at one time, but we did spread ourselves all over Rush Street, Walnut Grove, Angelus, Delta, and the Rice Elementary School field. And the event lasted for three and a half hours.

Ed and Francis deserve the credit for being the catalysts that got the ball rolling on this event [Though, I’m sure if they were writing this post, they would want to spread the accolades among the scores of volunteers who contributed their time, talents, or finances that went into making this rally such a success].

I don’t know everyone who volunteered their time, and I don’t want to cause any hard feelings by leaving individual names out. But I can rattle off at least some of the things that went right, to give some idea of the number of people it took for this to happen: We had about five large banner signs, some with slogans and some with the schedule of events or the "parade" route. We had about 100 hand painted signs on construction paper. We had people in home-made costumes, illustrating Wal-Mart’s "Seven Deadly Sins" [traffic dangers, pollution, health impacts, graffiti, trash, and crime]. We had at least three large tables, on which materialized an awful lot of sandwiches, chips, paper plates, napkins, punch and cookies. And each of those sandwiches were assembled and wrapped by volunteer labor, using foods and condiments paid for and/or donated by our volunteers. We had several games set up for the kids. We had a clown. We had a whole bunch of helium-filled balloons. We had three bullhorns. We had two American flags. We had a podium. We managed to leave the site after the event at least as clean as it was when we arrived. We had the hundreds of flyers announcing this event that our volunteers handed out at various area schools over the past week. We had the use of the field at Rice Elementary School, for which the rental and insurance fees were paid for by volunteer contributions from SOC members.

In fact, everything I listed above was donated or lent to us by our volunteers, or paid for through volunteer donations. No outsiders wrote large checks to help finance this. No union monies got funneled into our treasury [Some union members did join our crowd in protest. But, despite the demonization of labor unions by our opponents, union members are people and voters, too. Heck, even Gary Taylor claims to be a union member. So why he thinks union members shouldn’t be able to donate their time for a worthy cause is a mystery to me].

We didn’t have any corporate or PAC dollars sent our way, nor do we have a big-shot lobbyist paying all the bills for our event [the same can not be said for our opponents, of course]. Our expenses were all covered by the $5 and $10 and $20 [and one $100] donations collected from our volunteers over the past few weeks. [Well, except for the bottles of water, which were donated to us by an area merchant with a social conscience. I’d name them, but I think they may be concerned about retribution from the Wal-Mart sock puppets].

And so, when the protesters came streaming into Rice Elementary School on Saturday morning, I felt a real sense of pride in accomplishment. Not a self-pride, mind you, because I didn’t do all that much to help make this happen. I painted a few signs and kicked in a few dollars. No, I was proud because so many of our members stepped up during what has been a terribly difficult and emotional time for us.

I shouldn’t be surprised by this. Repeatedly over the past few years, Save Our Community volunteers have done some amazing things. They gathered over 2,000 signatures in just a few weeks to qualify the referendum. They gathered 4,800 signatures for the recall in just a few months. And they have repeatedly answered the call to paint signs, march and chant in protest. Repeatedly, they have stood in defiance against the goliath of the global economy, and against those elected officials in Rosemead who have sold their soul [and, worse than that, their city’s soul, their city’s future, and their children’s welfare] for their 30 pieces of Wal-Mart silver.

Over the past three years, we have been speaking truth to power, and power has been doing its best to ignore us. But, slowly, we are changing the face of that power. The worse case scenario now is we need to wait one more year to be rid of the "Sold Out to Wal-Mart" majority on city council. And when they leave, they will then go down in history as being more successful than Adolph Hitler, Hideki Tojo, Benito Mussolini, and even Osama bin Laden at destroying the American way of life. Because Jay Imperial can now claim to have done something that none of the others could ever accomplish: He managed to get an election cancelled in America.

So that was us on Saturday: Three hundred protesters on the streets of Rosemead, telling Wal-Mart that they were not wanted. Wal-Mart keeps claiming that the majority of Rosemead residents want a Wal-Mart. Yet, when it comes time to put up or shut up, their inability to turn out bodies to a demonstration speaks volumes. When it comes time to stand up and be counted, the number of pro-Wal-Mart demonstrators that come to the construction site can usually be counted on the fingers of one hand.

[I suppose that makes their counter-demonstration on Saturday a "success" for them, because their turnout was estimated by one news outlet as "about ten." So, on Saturday, you would have needed the fingers of TWO hands to count out their supporters. More on this, later].

It is this reality that makes Wal-Mart and their sock puppets cheer the death of democracy in Rosemead. They are afraid of the people of Rosemead, and they have been doing all they can to prevent our voices from being heard. Perhaps we made a mistake on the wording of the referendum. But don’t let them distract you from one simple truth: They had two opportunities to place this issue directly on the ballot themselves. They shouldn’t have needed the people of Rosemead to go through the petition process. A city council majority can place a referendum on the ballot themselves, and on an issue as divisive as Wal-Mart, it is their obligation to let the people decide. But they did not let us have our vote. Twice, they rammed though their approval, and twice they refused to let the people decide this issue directly. What are they afraid of? What kind of hypocrite claims to be fighting for the rights of the voters of his city, but repeatedly refuses to let the people vote?

What kind of hypocrite? Hypocrisy, thy name is Jay Imperial. The mayor sued his own city to postpone a recall election. What is he afraid of?

I’ll tell you what he’s afraid of. He’s afraid of the same thing that Wal-Mart is afraid of: Us. We turned out some 300 protesters, who were willing to volunteer anywhere from one or two hours to march, on up to forty hours or more to help make this protest happen. We lined Rush Street with our supporters. We lined the entryway to the proposed Wal-Mart property. We sprawled all over the athletic field of Rice Elementary. We were loud and we were proud, and we made them hear us. Indeed, we were so loud that some chicken little rent-a-cop called the County Sheriff in fear. Not because we were violent, and not because we threatened violence [we did not], but simply because we were big, loud, and not afraid to shout truth to power.

The Sheriff’s Department dispatched four black and whites and a parking control officer to break up a phantom fight.

Incidentally, at this point, I think it might have been the case that there were more people in black-and-whites at the Wal-Mart site than their were Rosemead sock puppets demonstrating in favor of the Wal-Mart.

Because what could so-called Rosemead PRIDE muster for their counter-demonstration? Where were their supporters? All they could manage was an old guy in a hard hat to heckle our marchers. Add him to the handful of Rosemead residents they had inside the fence to talk to the news crews, and I don’t think they could have even fielded softball team. I don’t think they had enough bodies to manage a five-on-five game of basketball. I’m not even sure if they could have managed a half-court game of three-on-three.


Saturday evening, my wife and I drove out to the westside to have dinner with the in-laws. On the drive back, we listened KNX news radio and heard their story on our protest. Very positive coverage.

I also saw a brief mention on KNBC-TV [poor coverage] and KTTV-TV [better coverage].

My main objection to the media coverage is that they seem to think "fairness" requires they treat both sides with equal coverage. The fact that our supporters outnumbered their supporters on Saturday afternoon by 20 or 30 to 1 never enters into their equation. To me, fairness would dictate that if we can turnout 30 times as many protesters, they ought to spend 30 times the amount of air time listening to our side of the protest. I mean, let’s face it: If we announced a protest at which we expected six people to turnout, they would never have bothered coming out to see us. So why give those six Wal-Mart sock puppets any coverage at all?


One more round of thanks:

--To state Senator Gloria Romero, Assemblywoman Judy Chu, and U.S. Representative Hilda Solis for coming out to join us Saturday afternoon.  Senator Romero and Assemblywoman Chu, in particular, have been with us throughout this battle.  Senator Romero has also come to more than a few Rosemead City Council meetings, so she knows as well as anybody the kinds of people we're dealing with.  And she came wearing a shirt honoring our recently-departed friend, David Perea.  That was a touching gesture on her part.

--To all the innumerable volunteers who staffed the food tables, set up the podium, managed the children’s games, prepared and delivered the foods and drinks to the protest location, photocopied and handed out the protest announcement flyers, helped spread the word about our protest though various avenues of communications, who painted and carried signs, who filled and tied those helium balloons, who got all dressed up in those elaborate costumes.

--To each of you individuals who took some time out of your busy lives to take a stand against Wal-Mart.  There were a lot of faces I didn't recognize out there.  And, when it comes to an event like this, seeing strangers is a good thing!  You infused us all with your enthusiasm.  You helped lead spirit-raising chants.  And you reminded everyone that, although our position may be a minority one on the current Rosemead City Council, it is the opinion held by the vast majority of actual voters and citizens of Rosemead, South San Gabriel, and surrounding communities.


Added, March 21, 2006:  Pictures.  Highly compressed, might be a little fuzzy.

1.  Late in the rally, listening to State Senator Gloria Romero.  This was about 2 1/2 hours after the rally started, after about 2/3 of the crowd went home.  Nonetheless, there are about 60 people visible in this picture, with another 30 or so behind the camera.

2.  A shot from early in the rally, before most of our supporters had arrived.

3.  Picture of Dolores, who took these pictures.  Thanks Dolores!  I scanned and then compressed the photos before posting.  My wife worked on this and the other six costumes.  We were rather proud of this one.  For the garbage, we went to the Wal-Mart in Pico Rivera and picked up some of the trash in their parking lot to illustrate the sort of things Rosemead can look forward to if the Wal-Mart ever opens.

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Saturday's Rally

Thank you for writing this beautiful piece that perfectly catches the essense of the day and made all of Rosmead, and my town of South San Gabriel, proud! I am wondering if SOC has written a letter to the Mayor about our fight. I am going to draft one as soon as possible so that we can get his support. Also, a good support system could be the South Central Farm Workers who are fighting for their land to not be taken from them. Check out their webiste at: www.southcentralfarmers.com. They have a sample of their letter to the Mayor on their site. It's a good resource!

In solidarity,

Kamren Curiel

More on the South Central Farmers


Big article in the current L.A. Weekly.  I haven't read it very carefully, yet.

Either way, I do like the idea of keeping some open space in the city.

A very sucessfull rally

  Thank you for the great piece on Saturday's Rally Todd! It was amazing and exciting to see so many new faces, as well as our usual SOC members, at a most sucessfull event. Kudos to Ed and all the volunteers who made this rally such a success. Our struggle for justice is truly a rightious fight, and in my heart I know we will prevail.  Nothing of this magnitude is easy, and the more we unite and grow in our mission, the taste of victory comes closer to fruition.