Since Andy Cohen covered the meat and potatoes of the teachers’ “State of Emergency” rally already, I wanted to share some other thoughts about the event and display a sampling of the numerous photos I took yesterday, Friday the 13th while at the Embarcadero in downtown San Diego.
When I heard that the rally was going to be at the Embarcadero, I told Patty that parking would be horrendous downtown and next to impossible, so we agreed to take the trolley from Lemon Grove. She wrapped up our banner, we gathered our camera and notepad, and we hopped the 3:44 pm trolley (although by time it got to us, it was 3:50). After grabbing our seats, we looked around and saw several women wearing red T-shirts that spelled out “STOP” – Students and Teachers Our Priority. And during the ride downtown, we heard several guys who were standing up having quite an intellectual conversation – even hearing the name “Chomsky” come bouncing out. Are these teachers? we wondered on their way to the rally.
Sure enough, once the trolley pulled up to the Seaport Marina station, the entire car stood up and got off. And everyone began heading to the Embarcadero. This was great! I thought. An entire trolley from east county going to the same rally. As we crossed the tracks and Harbor Drive, we were a march in and of ourselves.
As our little parade moved into the park, I took a right turn and headed over to the counter-rally. I had heard the Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity, the Young Republicans, and some tea party types were going to be holding a nearby demonstration against us and the teachers. A protest of the protest. As I approached this sideshow, I noticed almost more video cameras than people. Once in their midst, I did count twelve actual counter-demonstrators. A red-suited woman was bouncing around, saying she represented Americans for Prosperity. I asked her when her rally was going to begin. At 5 she said. One guy asked who I was – I had an OB Rag T-shirt on and was taking photos, and he showed me his sign. Later, I heard that their gig attracted somewhere between several dozen (U-T estimate) and about a hundred (estimate from a reporter).
Moving away from the tea partiers, I approached the main event and witnessed streams of folks – many in red shirts – pouring into the green east end of the Embarcadero. On the way there were small tables with mountains of water bottles and snacks being given away. Nice touch, I thought.
I also noticed there was about a dozen Harbor Patrol and City police in the vicinity. Just then, a police lieutenant walked up to me, and profusely thanked me for providing “the only information out there” about this event. That was kind of weird but I politely thanked him for that. And when I reunited with Patty who was holding our banner, she told me that one of the rally organizers had told her that the police were asking about us. “OB Rag – who are they?” It’s always good to be noticed.
Patty found a small hill just west of the main stage and planted herself and the banner. I went about taking photos and attempted to do a head count. This was very difficult as people were still moving into the park and rally area. I gave up after counting 1500.
There was a steel drum trio pounding out music, while the 4100 tiny pink flags fluttered in the wind. Two dozen students held signs with large letters proclaiming their opposition to ed cuts standing toward the crowd. I climbed up on the stage to take some more crowd shots.
I found Bill Freeman, head of the teachers’ union. I asked him how many people were expected, and he said 3 thousand. I then asked him why the Embarcadero had been chosen as the rally point. He replied that if it had been up to him, he would have gone for a more public site, but that CTA had chosen this particular one.
Finding Patty once again atop her hill, most of the crowd in that area were sitting on the grass. I joined them for the duration. Some OBcians joined us as well and took their positions on the green along side us.
There were a hell of a lot of people at this event. Many wore red-shirts, some light-blue ones as well. “We are one” was a favorite slogan on many of them. Many teacher groups sat together and whenever their school was mentioned from the podium, they would let out a holler. This gathering should really send a message. It was a rare occasion that this many teachers from all over the counties of Southern California were coming together.
Once the speakers started, there much applause, although only a few chants. Teachers are great, I thought, but they sure are subdued, even the many younger ones who were there. I compared them with the more militant Labor Council rally we attended back in late February, in front of the County building. But still, it was a wonderful showing overall.
Our good friend Gregg Robinson was one of the last speakers. Gregg wrote for this blog when we first began, and is known for being a good speaker. And today’s performance was not disappointing. He by far gave the most fired up speech of the rally. “Don’t let anyone tell you there’s no money for education!” he yelled out from the stage to an appreciative audience.
As the rally broke up, we headed back to the trolley and got on it. Our car was loaded with participants from the event all the way back east to the hinterlands. Trolley regulars looking for seats in a usually empty early evening Friday car must have freaked out. I didn’t know there was a Padres game, they probably thought.
There is a state of emergency – in education – but not just in education. It’s all over. One way to look at it, is that it’s so bad, even teachers are rallying. Teachers up and down the state were heard this week. Over two dozen were even arrested up in Sacramento, including their state union president.
Teachers have to continue to reach out, and stand with their fellow public union colleagues. We must continue to develop a genuine community-labor coalition for San Diego, and this was one more step – a giant step – in that direction.
Here are more pics. Remember to click on them for a larger image.