Yesterday Evening, I Found Myself at a Rally.
I had told my 72-year-old mother exactly how to get to the parking lot at the Petersen Building in Los Angeles, right between Beverly Hills and the Miracle Mile.
I had forgotten that it is right across the street from the Israeli Consulate.
When I entered the parking lot I first saw what appeared to be a light-colored balloon, but was the head of a bald man, lit strangely by his car’s interior lamp—apparently reading a map. Another “balloon” caught my eye: a helmet on top of a large American car. I remember wondering why, suddenly, in a building populated largely by enthusiasts of four-wheel-drive trucks, motorcycles, classic cars and street rods, everyone was suddenly driving a Crown Vic. And everyone seemed to need to read a map before they could go home. And the motorcyclists were getting careless with their helmets.
But I had other things on my mind.
As I got to the end of the driveway, I saw an armored car labeled “L.A.P.D. Emergency,” and wondered why the local SWAT team would be doing maneuvers so close to New Year’s day. Even the cones at the end of the driveway didn’t clue me in; I simply thought, “Oh. My mother will have to pick me up at the curb.”
Of course, that was impossible, as I realized once I got to Wilshire Blvd.: the street was blocked off for at least a block beyond the Consulate, in each direction. I had a split second to register how truly surreal one of the busiest blocks on Wilshire Blvd. looks, starkly empty of cars, during rush hour, before I heard the chanting of the anti-Israelis.
It was still 20 minutes before my mother had to meet me. SWAT team members stood in the middle of the street, looking on, perhaps 40 feet from The Point: the T-shaped intersection of Wilshire and La Jolla, where Palestinian supporters were grouped across the street from supporters of Israel. In between were 10-20 equestrian cops, some facing in each direction, on their horses. On either side, in the middle of the street, were two lines of uniformed cops: one for the south side of the street, where I was, and one for the north side.
“I’m on the wrong side of the street,” I thought. And then: “this is a heck of a time to be carrying a bookbag and a shopping bag. Don’t make any sudden movements. And do not abandon your bags.”
I took my camera out, very slowly, lest I spook the cops, as the Pro-Palestinians milled around carrying flags, sporting black-and-white-checkered headgear, and chanting, “hey, hey; ho, ho: the occupation’s got to go.”
I tried to take one picture, but the flash was enabled, and a kind-looking, swarthy man told me I was too far away.
“You have to get closer,” he told me. “They will let you cross at the intersection.” I disabled the flash, gulped, and moved closer.
At the intersection there seemed to be no chance of crossing Wilshire; the cops were within arm’s reach of each other; but I took one picture of the protester beside me, waving his Palestinian flag. I angled my camera toward the Israeli-flag banner across the street, but before the camera clicked the Pro-Palestinian waved his flag right in front of my lens.
“That wasn’t a very nice thing to do,” I told him hotly, but immediately regretted it. I took a half-step to my left and repeated the shot. This time he didn’t block me.
I moved among the other Pro-Palestinians: the “Enough Is Enough” placard, painstakingly lettered in quasi-Hebrew type. One of several other fair-haired women there smiled warmly at me, not seeing the camera, as if to say, “nice to see another enlightend Anglo-Saxon here.” I smiled back, rather than spitting—or stopping to explain to her how stupid and evil she was.
It was time to make it back to where my mother was supposed to pick me up—or as close as she’d be able to get to that point.
I stopped again to get another picture of 35 bicycle cops as they pulled up toward The Point—and then