By William Gagan / Special to the OB Rag
A parade that was originally founded by a group of social and economic magnates in the late 1800’s, was for the first time in history, occupied by protesters speaking out against large corporations and big banks early Monday. They were members of local Occupy Wall Street groups from southern California and neighboring states. Some even came from as far away as New York and Atlanta.
They came together to form what was a sizable but inspiring tail section to the notorious Rose Bowl Parade. The goal behind joining the parade was to bring the Occupy Wall Street movement cause to almost 40 million television viewers nationally. The City of Pasadena had negotiated with organizers of the event to allow them to march behind the last float in the parade.
At 6am Monday morning, protesters started arriving at Pasadena’s Singer Park, to organize floats and make signs for the parade. Some protesters had even camped out overnight alongside the spectators who had staked their claim to precious viewing space along the parade route.
Floats such as Occupy Los Angeles’ Occupy Octopus, a 100 foot in diameter octopus made completely from recycled plastic bags would be taking part in the parade. Also present was an 80-foot long Constitution signed by members from the Occupy Movement.
By 8:30am Sunday there were over 1500 protesters gathered in the park awaiting the call to march. Shortly after, they flooded out into the streets and flowed down a few blocks to the parade starting point. So many were present that at the start the shores of the ocean of protesters could not be seen.
By 9:30am the “Occupied” parade was in full swing. Signs were fluttering, a group named “The Billionaires” were singing and waving fake money, and the floats were moving.
At first there were what seemed to be small groups of onlookers watching the crowd of occupiers surge down the route. It didn’t take long for the movement to hit pay dirt though. The mass of protesters, somewhere between 2000 and 3000 at this point, started to pass bleachers filled to the brim with people. Some spectators looked on with amazement while some even cheered and waved.
They flowed past seas of red, which could only be Wisconsin fans, and past families with kids who didn’t understand what was happening. One child looked up to her dad and said, “What’s a bailout?” Another couple was overheard saying, “We should be out there with them.” It was a powerful onslaught of political rhetoric for anyone watching. Many ideas were represented, but all with the same common interest. Occupy Wall Street.
They marched the 5½ miles that is the parade route in just under two hours. Towards the end, right after passing the ABC News camera booth, they were joined in the rear by a couple step side trucks carrying LA County Sheriffs in riot gear. When the Pasadena Police Commander was asked to explain, he replied, “we are here to keep the peace and close off the end of the parade after you all pass.” They did just that, keep the peace. There was not one arrest made all day in connection with the protesters.
The procession marched a few blocks off the end of the parade route to end at the Pasadena City Hall. They gathered there to hear moving speeches from many representatives of different Occupy cities. One of the Occupy the Rose Bowl Parade organizers, Peter Thottam, from Occupy Los Angeles, spoke.
He said, “I do this for my son,” while tears streamed down his cheeks. Other speeches were given to an already elated crowd. Occupy San Diego’s own John Kenney spoke as well. After the invigorating words from many visionaries came music, the music of change. Laura Loved and Michelle Shocked led the charge with songs of peace and the fight against corporate tyranny. The day was a success even though the corporate media cut off the parade’s coverage after the last float. 100,000 spectators or more lined the streets and filled seats. Regardless, their voices were heard.
William Gagan is a member of the San Diego Occupy Press.