The Consulate is located on Wilshire Blvd just east of San Vicente Blvd, and near the line between Beverly Hills and L.A. Here is my overview of how the whole thing was set up, in the form of a marked-up satellite view:
They had closed Wilshire Blvd all the way from San Vicente on the west to Crescent Heights on the east. I parked a few blocks north of Wilshire on San Vicente. When I walked back, I learned that they had not just closed Wilshire to car traffic at San Vicente, but were not letting pedestrians through either. They were diverting all pedestrians through the residential neighborhood to the north, and making them enter the rally area off of La Jolla. I'm not sure why they did this. Let's just say I'm sure they had their reasons, as the police presence was very heavy, and security looked extremely well coordinated. There were LAPD, as well as Beverly Hills PD, and also lots of other private security peopleguys.
Here is a closeup of the rally area, with the area outlined in red where the crowd was the densest:
This map must be a little old because the 2 buildings on the northwest corner of the intersection weren't even there anymore. That's where there were paramedics and TV news trucks were set up.
Here's how it looked when I arrived, taken from that northwest corner and looking southeast towards the consulate:
And another view in the crowd:
Some of the signs people were holding:
This makes a good point. The people living in Gaza are not free,
they are living under dictatorship. Hamas doesn't exactly
recognize freedom of speech, for example.
'Peace Activists Don't Use Knives and Clubs'
Apparently other boats in the flotilla were boarded and
searched, without incident. See www.FlotillaFacts.com
This is the main reason it is important to support Israel,
and this is why I was at this event. Read my previous post
for a more complete explanation.
This one is pretty self-explanatory.
Israel's enemies seek to undermine her moral right to exist and to defend herself.
This is called 'delegitimization' and is also one of the central issues of this incident.
Here is the crowd a little later, around 3pm:
Fliers & Handouts
In addition to the signs, a number of people were handing out fliers. One very good one was from an organization called Stand With Us. They were promoting these websites:
- www.FlotillaFacts.com: This appears to be a good source of facts regarding the flotilla that have been ignored in the anti-Israel reporting that has dominated the issue. For example, there were other boats in the flotilla that were boarded and searched peacefully, and without incident.
- www.ShameOnTurkey.com: More info on Turkey's relationship to the whole incident;
- www.StandWithUs.com: Seems to be a general Pro-Israel information clearinghouse, specific to this organization, with info on other events and updates.
Another leaflet I came home with was from the Simon Wiesenthal Center, titled "2010 Top Ten Anti-Israel LIES". This one is pretty eye-opening as well, and you can read it online at www.wiesenthal.com/toptenlies
I was looking in the crowd for Gideon Reich, who I knew from the OActivists List would be there and possibly distributing some leaflets as well, but we missed each other. (It was a pretty big crowd!) He wrote up a nice blog post about his experiences at the rally, which you can read here.
The Crowd and My Overall Experience
I have to say, the overall mood was really much more of a rally or festival or celebration, than one of protest or counter-protest. Everyone was smiling and friendly, and it was easy to approach and talk to just about anyone.
The speakers were really hard to hear, unfortunately. That's really my only complaint. I also found myself wishing there were a beer tent, but then I would remind myself that this wasn't really a festival, even though it seemed like one in some ways, and I could go to the bar later.
I was tweeting the whole time too, and I just found this cool app where you can revisit your old tweets, called TwimeMachine. Through the magic (not really) of TwimeMachine, you can revisit your old tweets. Here is a log of my tweets that day, courtesy of Twime Machine. To read them chronologically, start at the bottom:
Crowd Size Estimate
One report I read indicated that LAPD estimated the crowd at 2,200. At the time, I estimated the crowd as closer to 8-10,000. I thought I had tweeted that, but a quick check of my tweet log above shows that I must have been distracted or something and decided not to tweet it. I wish I had, because my quick math shows that I was probably pretty close without going over, and would have likely won the Showcase Showdown if this were The Price is Right.
Here's how I defend my number:
I took the satellite image from above, imported it into AutoCad, and scaled it appropriately to the graphic scale shown on the map (omitted from the cropped image above.) Then I traced a polyline around the red outline I drew. According to ACad, the area encompassed by that line is around 50,000 square feet.
When designing a lobby or other closely packed standing space, the building code calls for 5 square feet per occupant. 50,000/5 = 10,000 occupants.
From my pictures, you can see that the crowd isn't exactly packed in shoulder-to-shoulder for that whole area, but they are that dense in some places. Also, there were lots of people milling around outside the red-outlined area. Plus, there were people coming and going the whole time. So, if you took everyone who attended at some point during the afternoon, and packed them into that space, I think you would at least fill the red outlined area, if not exceed it.
So, perhaps the more accurate figure is 10-12,000 people.
The Helen Thomas Incident
There were several signs, of the homemade variety (as opposed to all those pre-printed ones I showed you above) declaring "Helen Thomas is a Nazi" and that sort of thing. I was completely unaware of the incident of the previous Friday, and didn't really know what was up with this. I got some info from one of the other protesters at the same time the tweet came through from my twitter friend @shlevy : "Affiliated with White House press, made a statement that the Jews should leave "Palestine" or some such." Then I realized that I had, in fact, heard of Helen Thomas, the old lady that sat in the front row of the White House Press Corps, mainly out of tradition, but I had no idea she was such a fearless bigot.
You can always count on your tweeps to help fill in the blanks and connect the dots!
It wasn't until I got home and read the news that I realized the incident was relatively fresh, and I then didn't feel like I was out of the loop for not knowing. I usually spend Friday and Saturday out in the workshop welding furniture, and miss out on the news those days. If I were to sit down in front of the computer on a Friday or Saturday morning, I could blow an hour or two very easily, just indulging my inner news junkie.
Then came Monday morning's news of her retirement. I found this pretty interesting in the big-picture context.
On the one hand, Israel's government is left alone in the world, to defend her actions regarding the flotilla. Many ships were boarded, in international waters, to be searched for weapons and contraband. All but one of these searches were conducted peacefully. One erupted into the ugly spectacle we have all read about and seen video of, and for which Israel is universally condemned. Israel has every right to conduct these searches, in the interest of her own self-defense against Hamas, and their never ending volley of thousands of rockets into Israel. Note that these rockets have been launched after the Israeli pull out from Gaza in 2005.
Yet, on the other hand, the kind of speech delivered by Helen Thomas is resoundingly condemned and vilified, and her immediate retirement is the result. Her speaking engagements are canceled, and she is put out of the Press Corps.
I'm sure that in the Arab world, Ms. Thomas is being celebrated. Many accounts have surfaced that she was always known to be anti-Semitic, only that her timing and choice of words were extremely poor in this case, and they got the better of her.
Somehow, Hamas is seen by most as a legitimate body which is to be taken seriously and negotiated with in good faith. Yet, Helen Thomas is instantly delegitimized by her own remarks, which are essentially the same thing Hamas is saying.
If only the world would wake up to the fact that Hamas and their brethren march in lockstep with Thomas and her ilk, and they mean it. America needs to wake up to the fact that Israel's enemies are America's enemies; that Gaza needs to be freed from Hamas; that, in fact, peace activists don't use knives and clubs; and that the delegitimization of Israel is wrong.
Only then can there be the real possibility of peace in the Middle East.
6/10/2010 Update to the Update
It has been pointed out to me that I did in fact tweet my crowd estimate, just before leaving the rally. I somehow managed to crop my screenshot of the Twime Machine search at the wrong spot. Here is the full tweet log, with my crowd estimate at the top: