Enthusiasm and determination filled the air on Sunday as the Resist March came to West Hollywood. While the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department estimated the crowd attending the march to be 25,000, far fewer than the estimated 125,000 that traditionally turns out for the L.A. Pride parade that the Resist March replaced this year, the crowd seemed more diverse than West Hollywood usually sees for Pride weekend.
More Latinos, blacks, Asians, women and transgender people seemed to be among those who marched, all seemingly passionate about the call to resist the conservative policies coming out of Washington, D.C. since President Donald Trump took office in January. There was a sense of urgency and solidarity as politicians and speakers called for march participants to fight back against the potential rollback on LGBT rights, women’s rights, minority rights, immigrant’s rights and healthcare rights.
“We resist because it’s fabulous,” West Hollywood Mayor John Heilman told the cheering crowd at the end of the march, which started in Hollywood. “We know that there are people in Washington, D.C., who want to take away all of those rights from us, and we will not let them . . . let’s resist in the spirit of love. Love for our country and the true values it represents of opportunity, equality, fairness and decency for all people.”
U.S. Representative Adam Schiff, who represents both Hollywood and West Hollywood, named California as “the very heart and soul of the resistance.”
Meanwhile, Nancy Pelosi, the leader of the U.S. House of Representatives’ Democratic Caucus, explained the reason for the resistance. “We resist because this is not normal,” Pelosi said, referring to what is currently happening in Washington, D.C.
Pelosi called for the immediate reopening of the Civil Rights Act to add LGBT rights, telling Resist March participants to contact their congressional leaders right away. Meanwhile, U.S. Representative Maxine Waters called for the impeachment of Trump, chanting, “Impeach 45,” referring to Trump being the 45th president.
While the Resist March began in Hollywood along Hollywood Boulevard between La Brea and Highland avenues, the march ended three miles away in West Hollywood at Santa Monica Boulevard and Almont Drive (a few blocks west of San Vicente Boulevard).
As a reporter, I started the day at 9 a.m. at the West Hollywood end of the march route. While rally attendees heard speeches on Hollywood Boulevard, I was making my way east on Santa Monica Boulevard, ultimately meeting the marchers on Fairfax Avenue just as it entered the city limits at Fountain Avenue about 10:30 a.m.
Santa Monica Boulevard was closed to traffic as event crews built the stage at Almont and erected video screens for people to watch at four locations (Almont, Robertson Boulevard, Palm Avenue and Hancock Avenue) near the end of the route. It was eerie, yet somehow refreshing, to see West Hollywood’s main street, usually filled with cars at all hours, so empty, so completely devoid of any vehicles, except a few trucks making last minute preparations.
In previous years on Pride Sunday, thousands of people have lined Santa Monica Boulevard, eager to get a good spot to watch the Pride parade. That was not the case this year. Only a few dozen people were on the sidewalks. Café D’Etoile was serving breakfast as it always does on weekends, but many other places, normally closed on a Sunday morning at 9 a.m., such as Fiesta Cantina, Flaming Saddles and Trunks, were open with a few people already sitting on the patios, awaiting the march. As I chatted with some of those patio patrons, I reminded them it would be at least two hours before the march arrived, but they said the wait was unimportant, they just wanted good seats to see the march pass by.
Other people sat on the curb, on bus benches and along walls. One Australian gay couple told me they happened to be in town on vacation and were excited to see the march. One of the men said he intended to join the march when it came by, while the other man said he was just going watch.
Further down the street, Ron and Jerry, a couple who drove up from Costa Mesa, sat on a bench near Kings Road with their dog, intending to join the march as it came by. When I asked why they didn’t go to the start of the march at Hollywood and Highland, they explained they didn’t think they could walk the full three miles, but “wanted to be a part of the history-making event.”
Nearby, two Asian men sat on the street median, saying they were not interested in joining the march, but did want to witness it. About a dozen men, mostly older residents who live nearby, sat in Matthew Sheppard Triangle at Crescent Heights Boulevard (where the parade normally starts), awaiting the protest march. About half said they intended the join when it came by.
As I arrived at Fairfax Avenue, a hundred or so people stood in the intersection awaiting the march’s arrival. Many had homemade protest signs with messages like “Make America Gay Again,” “Dump Trump” and “Resist.” They cheered when they saw the march coming down the street, led by the dykes on bikes.
For the next hour, the marchers came down Fairfax, some dressed in costumes, some barely wearing anything at all. Some were chanting, some were quiet. Some marched individually, some marched with groups, but I kept thinking, “This must have been what the original gay Pride parades were like in the 1970s as people bravely stood up for their rights.”
The political nature of the Resist March brought out many people who normally would not attend the Pride parade, but that same political nature seemed to keep some away, as the Sheriff’s department lower attendance figures suggested.
Several people I chatted with said they hadn’t been to the parade in years, explaining, “It’s always the same. Nothing new to see, so no reason to come out for it.” But this march was something new and they wanted to see it.
In contrast, I ran into an acquaintance, Alex Davis, someone who I have chatted with almost yearly as we watch the parade go by. This year, Alex happened to be dashing into Gelson’s supermarket when I spotted him. When I asked if he was watching the march, he shook his head, “I want the show [referring to the spectacle of the parade]. I’m not really interested in seeing a protest rally.”
West Hollywood Councilmember John Duran summed up the march’s political nature in his speech to the crowd. “I’ve been asked by people, especially young people, what happened to the parade, what about gay pride and why are we doing a Resist March,” Duran said. “What do you think the parade was about these past 40 years!”
Later in the day, I ran into some people who said they had intended to participate in the Resist March, but Pride weekend partying on Saturday night made getting up so early Sunday morning difficult (when they had hangovers).
The parade normally attracts anti-gay protesters who decry homosexuality for religious reasons. Sheriff’s deputies always set up a space on the south side of La Cienega Boulevard for those protesters to exercise their First Amendment right to free speech. However, this year no anti-gay protesters turned out.
While the skies were overcast for most of the morning, by noon when the speeches started at the march’s end, the sun came out in full force. By the end of the rally at 1:30 p.m., people were ready for shade, food and drink. While the popular gay restaurant/bar, The Abbey, and its sister bar, The Chapel, both on Robertson Boulevard, were both packed by mid-afternoon, long lines to get in did not start forming until late afternoon. Meanwhile, the line to get into Bar 10 at 8933 Santa Monica Blvd., near Robertson, stretched down the block.
Others went shopping. Larry Block, owner of the Block Party clothing and gay souvenir store at 8853 Santa Monica Blvd. (at Larrabee Street), reported that it was looking like Sunday might be his best day of business ever.
Still others headed to the L.A. Pride festival happening in nearby West Hollywood Park. In years past, the line to get into the festival has been quite long (30 minutes or longer) when the parade ends, but this year the lines seemed relatively short at the rally’s end. Calls to L.A. Pride officials for attendance figures were not returned.
By 4:30 p.m., the rally stage at Almont Drive and Santa Monica Boulevard was completely dismantled. The video screens were taken down and the port-a-potties trucked in for the march were gone. City cleaning crews had picked up all the trash along the boulevard and street sweeping vehicles had gone up and down the road several times. When Santa Monica Boulevard reopened to traffic about 5 p.m., there was little evidence the rally had even happened there a just few hours earlier.