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The Berlin Wall: 20 years later, Los Angeles remembers

November 9, 2009 | 10:33 am

Wallmidnite They each stood by, bundled in scarves and coats. Slight murmurs wafted through the air. But as the 80-foot barricade came tumbling down, cheers erupted.

Berlin it wasn't. But shortly after midnight this morning, Los Angeles paid tribute to the historic collapse of the wall that kept a city divided for 28 years.

About 700 people gathered on Wilshire Boulevard near Ogden Drive to take part in the Wende Museum's "A Wall Across Wilshire" event, a symbolic re-creation of the Berlin Wall that once separated East and West Berlin. It was part of the museum's Wall Project, which commemorates the 20th anniversary of the collapse of the wall. 

"The division physically and symbolically marked by concrete barriers divided the city through its very heart," said Justinian Jampol, the Culver City museum's executive director and founder, as he addressed the crowd.  "But the Berlin Wall is not just a curious icon of a man-made conflict; it had real and enormous consequences .... it led to the loss of dreams and to the loss of lives." 

The event featured a 16-minute video, shown on two mounted flat screens, of footage from when the Berlin Wall was erected and dismantled, an appearance by Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit, via satellite, Los Angeles City Council member Tom LaBonge, Los Angeles German Consul General Wolfgang Drautz and a performance by German singer Ute Lemperer.

"I wasn't too optimistic," LaBonge said about turnout for the event. "I felt the same way I did about the Berlin Wall: I thought it would never come down. And I never thought this many people would come out on a Sunday. It's nice to see. Everyone is having a good night. I'll probably get a few noise complaints tomorrow for the loud music ... but it's well worth it."

Sections of the temporary barricade were painted by muralist Shepard Fairey, along with graffiti artists working with ArtStorm LA and art students from the Otis College of Art and Design, USC and CalArts.

The affair joined the museum's "Wall Along Wilshire-Eastside Gallery West," a 40-foot section of the original Berlin Wall, which is on view in front of the 5900 Wilshire Blvd. building through Nov. 14. The  sections of the original wall feature paintings by L.A. muralist Kent Twitchell and Berlin-based Thierry Noir. 

"Another Berlin Wall can happen anywhere, any time, unless we're vigilant," Twitchell said at the event.  "There are certain things in history we must never forget. Having an event like this ensures we won't."

-- Yvonne Villarreal 

Photo: The "Wall Across Wilshire" celebration in Los Angeles. Credit: Stefano Paltera / For The Times