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I'm absolutely knackered with blisters and haven't eaten anything other than mini-wheat bagels all day. Would you believe I nearly missed the beginning of today's Full Rights For Immigrants rally? The weather was boiling, and I was happily eating an ice cream when the Rite Aid worker pointed out the time. A jaunt to a couple of blocks over at Olympic and Broadway (aka my favourite Downtown place for a falafel) later, I found the mass of marchers and quickly took photos.

Plenty of old media types were hanging out and speaking to the marchers before the event: radio, television, print. In fact, to the north was the old United Artists building and to the west, the sign that declared the area 'Broadway Theatre District'. The photographers were the ones I had fun spotting, as they scrambled onto anything solid that would enable a greater viewpoint. In fact, I snapped a photo of two photographers on the roof of a nearby building, aiming their lenses on the crowd. Someone came round and passed out bubble gum; when's the last time you chewed a Bazooka Joe piece? :D

The bystanders would have first noticed the flags; mostly Mexico, but some Honduran, El Salvadoran, Honduras, Che (ain't a leftist rally without one, eh?) and even the Philippines. Then, the smell of the cooking hot dogs, bacon, onions, and peppers. Finally, the contingent of loud marchers, some swathed in flags, others wearing relevant shirts to their cause. I noticed the food most of all, because the smell of bacon was driving me insane. There were also handmade orange juice, fresh fruit, ice cream and drinks vendors marching alongside the main body. I slipped in between several different groups, eventually making my way to the front of one assembly. We waved at the photographers and at the curious apartment dwellers who had opened their windows.

It's nice to think all these various groups could be united, if only for a day. Despite my socialist and leftist leanings, there were a lot of messages at the rally I did not fully agree with. For instance, a communist group handed out a leaflet I had trouble keeping my laughter in. Seriously, they needed a copy editor to fix the atrocious grammar. Not only that, they kept using the stale cliches of 'imperialism/imperialist', 'war machines', 'world domination'. I heard 'imperialism' an awful lot from activists today, and wasn't entirely sure it was an accurate term. US presence in the Philippines after the Spanish-American war was imperialism, but I'm not sure it can be applied today. But I kept an open mind, and nodded along with the speeches.

Two other rallies happening at the same time quickly diverged into ours. We marched on together and stopped a block away from City Hall. Earlier in the morning, I had gone by and taken a photo of the serene entrance trussed with a line of flags. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa had previously said he might not show up to the rally. If that was upsetting, none of the speakers said anything. However, there were strong words regarding LAPD's brutality during last year's rally. A few kids harmed last year by officers came onstage for a few words.

The presence of the police were visible, if subtle. Sure, there were helicopters in the air making me have a Goodfellas moment. Yes, they were videotaping and photographing going-ons. But they stayed out of the way and weren't confrontational. As the marchers stopped at Broadway and 1st, a voice droned through the loudspeakers: Good afternoon, this is the LAPD. Welcome to the May Day Rally. I couldn't help myself and snorted. Others were not as calm, and angrily shouted for the officer to shut up. Shame, because the officer was trying to get us to move to the east and west of the street in order to accommodate the rest of the assembled marchers. We didn't hear anymore from them after that.

I squeezed into a spot between the throng of spectators as a Mariachi band played 'Si se puede'. Most of today's chants and speeches were in Spanish, but those three words were enough for me. As I turned to pick up my drink, I saw a soft drink vendor wipe his eyes with a hanky. It was then that I realised all around me were my people, immigrants and workers who are trying their best to survive. There's nothing illegal about such a person. If, as an activist declared, either Clinton or Obama make it to the White House in November we can only hope they'll have a compassionate response to the immigration issue.

The pictures from the May Day rally are here at Flickr.

BTW, some bad news: I didn't get that job after all :(
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