May Day protests: Hundreds gather at Pershing Square as night falls
A few hundred people gathered Tuesday evening in front of the outdoor stage in Pershing Square after a day of marching around Los Angeles County protesting over various issues, including labor and immigrant rights, healthcare reform and war.
As night fell on downtown Los Angeles, about 300 protesters remained at the park in one of the largest gatherings of Occupy activists since they were forced to leave the City Hall park. Police cruisers and a helicopter circled. The demonstrators have a city-issued permit to stay until 10 p.m. and police have said they will not allow the protesters to remain overnight.
People filled the square with colorful chalk art bearing such messages as "Vote for Peace." Vendors sold hot dogs, and tables were set up for people to sign up to support local agriculture, and education and immigration reform.
Protesters danced to live cumbia and reggae music and lounged on the grass. Some sung along to lyrics that included "Get up, stand up for your rights."
The general assembly rally started shortly after 8 p.m., with shout-outs to international workers' day and all the disparate groups that marched Tuesday.
"I'm planning to stay [at Pershing Square] until we get evicted," said Raymond Castaneda, an unemployed alarm technician from Lynwood.
He said he was happy to see so many Occupy groups come together -- Occupy San Fernando Valley, Occupy Rose Parade, Occupy the Hood, to name a few. The 30-year-old has been active with the Occupy L.A. movement since its inception in October.
On the stage, speakers urged listeners to join together to effect change.
"To the janitors, in solidarity, we are with you. If you strike, we are with you," said one speaker to a crowd of people raising their hands and wiggling their fingers to show support and enthusiasm.
People in the crowd sang a song together in English and then in Spanish. Afterward, the crowd broke up into groups to discuss issues and get to know new people. Each discussion group has a facilitator and note taker.
-- Rosanna Xia and Paloma Esquivel
Photo: Protesters take part in a group massage Tuesday night in Pershing Square. Credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times