When word got out that President Obama was scheduled to attend a donor lunch at a private residence in an exclusive Los Angeles neighborhood, activists set out to greet him. fter paying $32,400, at least one of the activists, Paul Scott, managed to wrangle an invitation to the event. But as soon as the organizers got wind of Scott’s activism — he is an electric car advocate – his invitation was politely revoked and his $32K was returned. But unlike Scott who managed to get an invitation, albeit temporarily, hundreds of other activists planned to have their voices heard without paying a dime. They assembled within earshot of the residence where the luncheon was to take place the morning of the event. Standing at the corner of San Vincente and 26th, hundreds rallied to express their dissatisfaction with Obama’s deportation record. Then just a few feet away, a smaller group of environmental activists voiced opposition to the Keystone Pipeline XL.
The Keystone Pipeline is a pipeline system that would transport oil sands bitumen from Canada and northern states to oil refineries in the Gulf Coast of Texas. Environmental activists and other progressives have voiced vehement opposition to the expansion of this system – Keystone Pipeline XL — because of the detrimental effects to the environment. The environmental activists were buoyed by the news that Southern California Edison will permanently retire the troubled San Onofre nuclear plant.
Meanwhile, it’s been a rocky week for immigration reform. In vote of 224-201, the Republican-dominated House voted to reverse the President’s policy of not deporting Dreamers – young people who were brought to this country as children but do not have legal resident status. Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) introduced the amendment, which is unlikely to pass the Senate but is a bad sign for the future of comprehensive immigration reform.
The rallies were lively, spirited, and grew intense as the police ordered the immigration protesters to clear the intersection. Eleven protesters, determined to practice civil disobedience, were arrested, while the others shouted their support as the arrested were taken into police custody one by one and marched to a nearby police department bus.
Although the two actions clearly indicate that the movements have deeply committed and passionate supporters, the image presented by the two groups was striking in another way– on the one end of the grassy median that runs down San Vincente was a very white group of protesters committed to protecting the environment – on the other end of the median hundreds of mostly brown faces determined to keep their families together chanted “ Not One More, Stop the Deportations”.
Until these activist communities find ways to unite, it’s difficult to see how progressives will ever have the numbers needed to come up against the power of the monied interests. Obama arrived and left the exclusive Brentwood home where invitees paid upwards of tens of thousands of dollars to have a seat at the table with him. While hundreds of protesters chanted, perhaps not with one voice but chanted nonetheless.
Sharon Kyle is Publisher of the LA Progressive, where this story first appeared