President Trump famously said during the campaign for his first term that the United States would build “a great wall” — and that Mexico would pay for it. That didn’t quite work out. Instead, across the United States, people are building their own walls. And in places like Los Angeles, it’s largely Mexican American construction workers who are the ones getting paid to do the work.
The walls, however, are not “great.” They are plywood — and they went up at record speeds around Los Angeles (and many other U.S. cities) as the country braced for election unrest. It’s as if a hurricane were about to land — a hurricane named Donald Trump.
It’s an apt metaphor: NBC news correspondent Katy Tur once said that covering Trump “was like a hurricane making landfall everyday.”
And, as Alissa Walker points out in Curbed, even Trump has boarded himself up — adding a security fence around the perimeter of the White House this week. “After four years of trying to keep people out, his defensible space has grown smaller and smaller,” she writes. “He has, truly, locked himself up.”
This election has changed the political landscape. It is changing the physical one too.
On Tuesday afternoon, I took a drive across Los Angeles.
A city that was already sleepy from the pandemic was awash with the sounds of power drills on election day. Vast swaths of businesses in Hollywood, Westwood, downtown L.A., along the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica and in Mid-City L.A. along the length of Wilshire Boulevard were all covered in plywood.
Beverly Hills went to town too. The city blocked off and boarded up the faux European pedestrian alley Via Rodeo and blocked all pedestrian and automotive access to Rodeo Drive — keeping Gucci and Balenciaga safe from looming conflict. It also wrapped up public sculptures and built fencing around others to protect them from damage. Given the questionable aesthetics of some of the city’s public art, I’d say this might be a good thing.
Boarded up cities, shut-down bridges and highways, a security fence around the White House, multiple attempts to disenfranchise voters — the United States can survive many things, but normalizing threats to our right to vote is not one of them.
Amid this wildly abnormal new reality, I was intrigued by the ways in which some business owners attempted to make plywood seem like part of the design. The Beverly Wilshire painted its plywood the same putty shade as the building’s stone, so all this architecture of civil strife wouldn’t be so unsightly.
Others did wonders with a few coats of paint.
Herewith a very short visual diary of L.A. on election day:
Open and shut