By Carol Fondiller
The Establishment Parade vs. the “People’s Parade” but first, background. Background is all. I remember the parade that didn’t happen in Venice.
Those nasty un-patriotic beer swilling pot smoking coffee drinking hippies and Beats and Commies as Werner Scharff and the Venice Civic Union used to call them, and if one indulges in E-mail, that vicious, crude and lying effluvium, the same swill slightly recycled still eminates from some flea ridden hound’s master’s website. “Anti-Progress” they bark un-American they whimper Aging Hippy Commie Dope Smoking Beats they whine, as they cower in their lairs wishing they could afford to live in Malibu but absenting that, these rabid whelps will endeavor to move disagreeable elements out of Venice, i.e., patrons of Los Trocas on Rose Avenue, clients of the Venice Family Health Clinic. (Many of the nouveau hip donate money to St. Joseph’s and the Venice Clinic. They love poor people just not in their backyard, the street they live on, the libraries they patronize, the shopping centers – you get the drift. They love you in Biafra just not on San Juan Avenue.)
In 1968-1969 the threats Venice faced were the same as now. People who had been paying their mortgages and their rents for years were faced with what were called improvements – and to be fair, some of the improvements would have been beneficial – street lights paved sidewalks, etc. But most of the improvements centered on getting rid of small cottages and hotels that were part of Venice since it’s inception. And in the improvements the casualties would be low income people. Folks who bought the little houses to live in, and renters who looked on Venice as their home.
But they were soon told by the powers that be, the City of Los Angeles, the banks who acted in collusion with property owners who owned large plots of land, that the property owner and renter alike, were expendable. they were to be displaced for a better use of the land, Werner Scharff’s vision of Miami Beach West.
The Venice Survival Committee, and the Free Venice Committee, one of the first groups to advocate secession from Los Angeles, fought back. These groups were organized by the Peace and Freedom Party, and despite red baiting, police and F.B.I. harassment, these groups managed to rally people to fight for the right to live where they were. It wasn’t as if these rich people were happily doing whatever rich folks do, and suddenly all these ground apes, knuckles dragging on the dirt, invades their mansions, peed in their fountains and their Perrier, it was the other way around. Low income people living by the ocean! Much too good for them — and money, honey, could be made. As one of the mini speculators, Alan J. Radford, developer of the unsuccessful Washington Square project said, “Water and poor people don’t mix”. The city saw tax dollars and the speculators saw more — the only barrier to wealth were those annoying people who already lived there.
In ‘68-69 this pot had been boiling for years. Confrontations with the, at that time, the lackeys of investors and banks, the LAPD, and the Venice residents were common and sometimes brutal. Protests against the war in Viet Nam were savaged and spied upon, the F.B.I. was trying to infiltrate the Peace and Freedom Party. And as it is today, people question loyalty to cover up their own lack of commitment to the principals of the government’s contract with the people – the Bill of Rights and the Constitution.
The Free Venice Survival Committee and the Peace and Freedom Party decided to take back America. It was also discovered that in 1905 Venice was officially opened. What better way to say Happy Birthday America and Happy Birthday Venice than with a parade? — Indeed, it was thanks to the Free Venice Beachhead years later, that Venice’s Birthday was taken note of by the establishment.
So this “unamerican” bunch of hippies of every color and persuasion, radicals aging and otherwise, bikers, librarians, poets, drunks, REALLY SQUARE homeowners, and churches got together a parade committee. We worked on it for months.
Parade permits were applied for and denied. So, we decided to walk our parade route. We hadn’t counted on parade horses or motorcyclists but the motorcyclers, most of whom hung out in the pagoda by Breeze Ave. So, we through we’d just walk, obeying all the traffic signals and allowing traffic and pedestrians to pass without being blocked. We leafleted and planned, and met. The meetings were open, and, for the limited resources of P and F the publicity was pervasive.
The police started warning people to stay away from the parade.
As the 4th of July neared, the police were more present than usual. Police rode motorcycles up and down the Ocean Front Walk. Portable booking stations were installed in the oil holding facilities by Windward and O.F.W. Police cars sirened up up and down the streets.
I was living at Westminster and West Washington Blvd. (Now Abbot Kinney Blvd.) opposite Westminster School. I was awakened several days before the Fourth by something flying overhead. The police were practicing landing and take-off maneuvers with their helicopters on the school playground.
People were told by Councilman Marvin Braude’s office to stay away from Venice. I believe the the newspaper, the Evening Outlook, even printed cautionary tales regarding the forthcoming July 4th radical-led riots in Venice. Did I neglect to tell you that we had children’s groups and the Israel Levine Senior Citizen Center signed up for the parade? We also had a boom box contingent.
As the 4th got closer as in 2 days before, we began to hear rumors of a “Police Action”, that is, being clubbed by a baton wielding L.A.P.D. officer for just being there. The day before the parade, we faced the reality that an un-armed peaceable joyous celebration with flags children dogs and PEOPLE would be clubbed and beaten for just walking celebrating their town’s and their country’s birthday. We sat up all night debating. I remember crying because we really had to call off the parade. We called, explained, re-leafleted walked and got the “walk” cancelled.
Ah, but the cops had their fun anyway. It seems some hippys took responsibility to save lives and stood on entrances to the beach with signs saying, “Stay away from Venice Beach! Police Riot Planned!” “Free Venice!” These people were trying to save lives. They were arrested and roughed up by the police. We were also castigated by a group of self proclaimed radical documentary filmers called NEWSREEL for not going forward with the parade so they could film the confrontation between the cops and the citizens. They missed the drama of people being driven out of their homes and prevented from partaking in a celebration.
Subsequently, the Peace and Freedom Party and the Free Venice Committee and the Free Venice Survival Committee sponsored other parades. They were fun, they were funky and anyone could join. No charge. Eventually the City even signed our permits.
So excuse me if I feel a bit out of sorts when I see “my” parade being co-opted by profit makers. Listen I hope the Venice Centennial Committee has a great time. I’m really happy about my Centennial calendar, and I want a Centennial T shirt (XXXL) but I miss the sight of Happy Jack ex-biker riding a car down the O.F.W. with a beer and a broad YES! a broad on each arm, the low riders, and the fife and drums led by John Haag holding the Don’t Tread on Me flag.
So, it’s interesting to me to see that the same issues are still here in Venice, only bigger and meaner. And one other anecdote from the parade that never was.
July 5th, I was walking down the O.F.W., when I was stopped by a white haired woman. “Thank you”, she said “Thank you for cancelling the parade.” She pressed $5.00 on me for the Beachhead into my hand.
So, I don’t begrudge the City sponsored Venice Centennial, with it’s masks and cars. I just want some of the new arrivistes to realize if it weren’t for us ol’ rads cranks and socialists there wouldn’t be, as Ruth Galanter said, anything left to fight over.
Originally published July 2005.