The area around City Hall was one of the liveliest places in Los Angeles on Saturday as hundreds of protesters, marchers and paraders descended on Civic Center.
They occupied steps and lawns, decrying gun control on the north side of the building, honoring St. Patrick’s Day and the Irish on the west side and protesting U.S. involvement in El Salvador on the south.
The three events were scheduled at different times, but for awhile at midday, an Irish member of the National Rifle Assn. could have stood at Temple and Spring streets and watched the parading of the green while listening to warnings of threats to freedom.
Police blocked off downtown streets, escorted parade units from the Music Center to the City Hall, shepherded marchers through downtown streets from the south and stood guard between rival protest groups, all without serious incident.
Candy salesman Bret Rubin, 22, of Malibu moved deftly through the crowd, offering horns to blow, candied apples to eat and a bit of philosophy, “Cotton candy doesn’t go good with war,” he said.
An estimated 1,000 to 1,500 marchers protesting U.S. involvement in El Salvador reached City Hall about 2 p.m. after going from Olympic Boulevard and Main Street and walking through downtown Los Angeles along Main and Spring streets, and Broadway.
The march was sponsored by Stop the U.S. War in El Salvador on the eve of presidential elections in that country. Yelling, whistling demonstrators arrived at City Hall to shouts and drum beats. They carried signs that said: “Stop the U.S. War,” “Support Peace in Central America, “U.S. Out of El Salvador.”
Rival protesters, some of them crying support for the Contra rebels, called through bullhorns: “Communists Go Home,” “Communists Out of El Salvador,” “Peace. No War. Communists Out of El Salvador.”
The large colorful crowd collected on the south lawn, dancing to Latin music and cheering speakers.
“Today it is our money,” said Father Luis Olivares, pastor of Our Lady Queen of Angels Church, protesting U.S. government support for the Salvadoran government. “Tomorrow it will be our young men, and we won’t stand for that.”
Posters on portable toilets in front of City Hall advertised the sentiments of pro-gun activists rallying on the Temple Street side. “Don’t ban any service rifles!” the posters said. “Show you care. Protect your rights.”
The meeting was sponsored by the Liberty Coalition Against Crime. About 700 people gathered to listen to speakers protest California legislation banning assault weapons.
“Something is wrong. Terribly wrong,” said Robert Just, a member of the board of the 6-week-old organization. “Crime is subverting our society. That means it is subverting our Constitution.”
Signs expressed the sentiment of the crowd: “Gun ownership is a right, not a licensed privilege,” “Americans ban crime, not guns,” “All our guns have legitimate sporting purposes” and “Media motto: If we can’t distort, we won’t report.”
John Fenstermaker, 53, was more interested in being Irish. He dressed in a green smock and hopped a bus to see the 6th Annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade in downtown Los Angeles. There was another St. Patrick’s parade down Hollywood Boulevard, but Fenstermaker said the Civic Center parade was more convenient.