Officer Santis was new. You could tell by how he held his baton. He looked like a baby despite the riot helmet. I wished him the dignity of long sleeves to conceal his thin arms.
He was more tense than the Angelino with the welcome mat tied around his shoulders behind me as the protest neared the moment when things could go bad if one side doesn’t back down.
An old bus requisitioned as a blocker had just arrived and the march was stalled out where it had begun.
The impromptu march had made its way through concourses on the arrival level from Southwest all the way around the horn to United.
Even traffic cops mouthed the words of our chants and gave smiles as we transitioned from the inner lanes to the outer ones.
I heard one protester offer, “I’ve never gotten around the airport so quickly.”
Upstairs, it was a different picture altogether. As the departures lanes were log jammed and spilling red all the way onto Sepulveda, Lincoln and Century boulevards…
The police attempted to keep the lower level open by first limiting our free assembly to the Tom Bradley international terminal, but like most things ruled by motion, they tend to take a path all their own.
First, protesters packed the inside of the terminal where a sit-in rung Muslims in afternoon prayer- facing outward as strangers kneeled on sheets of paper towel commandeered by organizers.
But the sit-in spilled out into the street where by 2:00 pm, it packed all levels including the pedestrian overpass and neighboring Parking garage.
It just kept growing, fed by a steady stream of people walking into the airport armed with signs and giant orange pinatas.
I remarked to one such owner of an orange headed piñata, “how perfect, he’s got a stick up his ass.”
Eventually, enough people started moving for the stationary rally to transform into a march.
First, we were limited to the inside lanes of the concourse but it didn’t take long till the whole level was occupied.
For a while, the police tried to form a line but movements like to move and the police were wise to let it happen. I couldn’t help thinking how well the police handled it and should be applauded for their discipline and way they yielded.
As I walked back to my car, I myself yielded to travelers racing on foot to their airplanes.
Theirs was an entirely different day.
Along the way, I found the reinforcement quick reaction force tucked aside a parking garage out of sight.
These officers were joking and eating some snacks. I stopped to thank them for allowing us to practice our first amendment rights.
The senior Sargent wasted no time in correcting me.
“Allow you? It’s your right!”
He then began to explain to one of the younger officers why we were there in the first place.
The young Latino officer didn’t know. As amazing as that seems, I can’t help but think his lack of knowledge is all too common.
I thanked them one more time and warned them “they’re probably going to be banking a lot of overtime,” then rejoined the protest, walking down the center lane in an otherwise empty airport.
I passed a young Muslim couple with their children, pausing to bow slightly and say alsalam-alakum. We met eyes and honored the spark of divine in each of us then carried on our way.