An incident at the King Day parade, Los Angeles, 2006
My wife and I had gone to the Crenshaw district where the Jan.15 celebrations in L.A. were centered. We saw maybe a half dozen other white people out of the 10,000 or so lining the streets. In the parade, the U.S. Army had a brightly decorated Hummer and killer sound system to recruit new meat for the Iraq war. The Budweiser Clydesdales and wagon trotted down the street encouraging us to drink beer. Girls with white wooden rifles did their Chasseurs d’Afrique routines. Hip hop radio stations had their DJ’s aboard floats encouraging us to go gangsta and shake our junk.
Two local gangs associated with the Crips, the Rollin’ 30s and Rollin’40s had declared a truce for the parade. But Deborah and I got caught in the middle of competing gangs “representing”, flashing competing gang signs at each other and yelling, then turning the corner and continuing into Martin Luther King Jr. Park on Western Avenue. Squad cars, cops on bicycles and two trucks full of armored SWAT teams with tear gas and concussion grenade guns instantly converged and rushed to the park. The gangs backed down.
It was an odd way of paying tribute to the man who lived and died by the guiding light of nonviolence. The following year, King Day organizers again allowed ROTC units to parade with rifles but turned down a request by the anti-war coalition ANSWER to march condemning war as boldly as had Dr. King four decades earlier. Only when ANSWER supporters showed up in force and demanded a place in the parade did organizers relent. Police were told to stand down and the parade’s only expression of peace was allowed to join the march honoring Martin Luther King.
And don’t get me started on how Martin Luther King III and his sister had to file a lawsuit against their brother Dexter (now of Malibu, Calif.) to stop him from secretly trying to set up a movie deal with Stephen Spielberg about their father.