Downtown L.A. decked in red, white and blue

Hijab Gulwani, 18, of Los Angeles and Zain Delawalla, 16, of Santa Monica pose for a friend while wearing American flags at the third annual Fourth of July Block Party at Grand Park in downtown L.A.
(Rick Loomis, Los Angeles Times)

They streamed into downtown L.A.'s Grand Park by the thousands — decked out for the most part in red, white and blue — to celebrate the Fourth of July.

Some came for the music; others for the festival fare; still more for the family-focused activities.

Musicians rocked on two main stages in the park. People grabbed pupusas, funnel cakes, tacos and hot dogs to share. Children splashed in fountains to find relief from the summer heat.

Tania Elizando, 22, came from Inglewood with her 11-month-old son, Lucas, because the all-day event was full of kid-friendly attractions.


“It’s fun for him, that’s all that matters,” Elizando said as she helped her son paint his name in bright yellow strokes on a community mural set up in the park.

Members of the crowd decorated cutouts of families standing together. People painted such messages as “Happy Fourth!” "#LoveWins” and “I [heart] the City of Angels.”

The Taleno family passed the hours before the main event — the fireworks — listening to the live music and snacking on Starbucks pastries. “We heard there were going to be a lot of fireworks,” said Judith Taleno, 14. Her family drove from Whittier to watch downtown’s skyline be lit up.

But not everyone came to celebrate. A small group of protesters from an organization called We Charge Genocide L.A. congregated near one of the main stages and held signs calling to “Decolonize Independence Day” and denounce racism across the U.S.


Rebecka Jackson, 30, said she and her fellow demonstrators wanted to draw attention to what they say is the irony of celebrating the Fourth of July when many people of color were denied rights for centuries.

On a nearby stage, Javon Johnson, a spoken-word poet, related a classic scenario from an American elementary school classroom. Johnson remembered a teacher asking him what he wanted to be when he grew up. His answer: a teenage mutant ninja turtle.

Years later, he found himself in a classroom telling kids they could be anything they wanted to be with enough education. One of the kids asked him what he grew up to be with all of his education. A teenage mutant ninja turtle, on Saturdays, he quipped.

Throughout the afternoon and into the evening, laughing children and barking dogs ran through the park. Some kids splayed out on the water pad in front of the county courthouse, creating rippling water angels in the shallow fountain. A woman near one of the stages taught a group of youngsters how to salsa, moving fluidly through each step; the kids tried to copy her motions, jerking forward and backward just a little off-beat.


And all over the park, people laughed and hugged and chatted, celebrating in their red, white and blue.

Twitter: @katemshepherd