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Love Parade v. Peach March Features
A Tale of Two Processions
Love Parade v. Peace March
September 24, 2005 - San Francisco
Photos and text remixed by Luke HauserOn Saturday, September 24, you could not only march through the streets for peace - you could dance through the streets for - well, for the sake of dancing through the streets.
Unfortunately, you had to go to two different events to do it.
Anti-war marchers took to the streets of Washington DC, San Francisco, and other cities to demand an end to the Iraq War, an end to the current U.S. regime, and justice for all.
The San Francisco peace march passed through the Mission, Castro, Haight, and Western Addition neighborhoods in central SF.
Meanwhile, downtown, thousands of ravers took over Market Street for the Love Parade, an international phenomenon in its second year in SF.
Moving between the two events, which at one point were only a few blocks apart, it was hard not to compare and contrast. In the end, I gave in to the impulse and created a scorecard.
The summary version is - peace march won points for diversity, focused message, and grassroots base. Love Parade had better music and dancing, had a more energetic tone, and generally interacted more with bystanders.
The side-by-side contrast highlighted the way peace marches preach to bystanders, chanting and pointing signs at them. Love paraders shook their booties at the crowd.
The peace march's message seemed to be: "We're right! We're right!"
The Love Parade's was, "We're having fun!"
Most of the Love Parade floats were sponsored by clothes companies. While that's not the same as being sponsored by soft-drinks or cigarettes, it still left me wondering if the deeper message of the Love Parade was: "Let's shop!"
On the surface, of course, the message was "Let's party!"
Now I'm the first to admit, "Let's party" is a great message. But considering (A) our government is murdering people around the world and using our silence to justify it, and (B) a huge peace march was taking place the same day, a half-mile away - I had to wonder whether anything beyond the party was crossing people's minds.
On the other hand, was the peace march more focused? "Bring the troops home now" was a popular chant. But how many people support immediate withdrawal, with no United Nations' plan in place and no pledge of reconstruction support for Iraq?
Beyond wanting "peace," there wasn't any unified platform. Still, however diverse their causes and signs, the peace marchers were putting out constructive messages addressing real-world issues. The Love Parade could make no such claim.
Challenging the Status Quo
Yet whatever its shortcomings, the Love Parade was the more lively event, and represented a far greater challenge to the status quo than the peace march.
There are many status quo's - the war, government malfeasance, social injustice, to name a few. The Love Parade had little or nothing to say about any of these.
But there are also status quo's like the culture of street protest. My heart is with the peace marchers - I guess that's why I show up. But in a rapidly-changing world, our forms of protest seem to be sitting still.
(For a radically different type of street protest, see the "Garden Lockdown" feature in the site index.)
The Love Parade challenged cultural ossification. Photographs cannot convey the movement of the marchers - entire sections of the crowd jubilantly pulsing to the same beat. When the march reached the tourist area around Powell and Market, the tourists completely forgot the cable cars.
Most significant - at the peace march, the police were relaxed and helpful. The march was "routine," and the police treated it accordingly.
At the Love Parade, on the other hand, the police seemed on edge. As bystanders on the crowded sidewalks joined the dancing, the lines between participants and spectators blurred, making the parade seem huge. The police looked nervous about what might happen (nothing much did, as it turned out - but the feeling of possibility was in striking contrast to the scripted feel of the peace march).
The great strength of the peace march, and today's peace movement, is diversity. The movement cuts across age, race, and class.
The Love Parade, on the other hand, was overwhelmingly young, and most people seemed middle class or above. Whites and Asians predominated. The peace march also seemed more "grassroots." Although organized by ANSWER, a leftist group, the march consisted entirely of autonomous contingents, groups, and individuals. Hundreds of handmade signs and props filled the air. The notion that a capitalist company would "sponsor" such a march seems ludicrous.
Not so the Love Parade. It presents itself as an independent event. But the floats were mainly paid for by clothing companies that cater to affluent youth. The sound systems were state of the art, not the sort that peace activists cobble together.
Both groups of people have a strong vision of how to use a city's streets. What would happen if they coalesced?
Take the signs and focused intent of the peace march, turn off the bullhorns, and plug in the Love Parade's sound systems.
Let the dancers do the outreach to bystanders - the activists can educate people after they join the march.
Peace marchers may know why we need to be in the streets.
But the Love Paraders have a better idea what to do once we're out there.
The Love Parade will pretty surely recur. We can plan a peace march for the same day, and set a route that brings the events together.
It may not be The Revolution. But it might bring us a step closer.
I rode my bike through both events and noticed some of the same things... It's really too bad that they weren't one event... March and dance for peace and love... And really really too bad that they were simply scheduled for the same date... Talk about a lack of contact.
Anyway I'm feeling picky so I want to challenge two of your concepts:
"Most of the love parade seemed middle class."
That would seem absurd to most of the paraders, especially all the ones that really really aren't middle class. Everytime someone looks to my little band of friends and calls us middle class I take time to articulate the extreme class range of the dissident, artist and escapee populations of SF. Many of my close comrades were raised poor and working class. Some of them, just like you, went to the love parade from the peace march. And a few of my close circle are practically independently wealthy, children of the upper middle class, still receiving $10's of thousands annually from their parents or having already inherited enough for me to live on forever. We are not middle class. That's just too reductionist.
You also made a comment about affluent youth and the corporations and independent businesses that want to get rich off them. There are ghetto kids all over the world with sneakers that cost more than mine, that wear only new clothes with visible labels that cost more than my mostly second-hand outfits (not that I don't own $100 shoes and some excellent semi-expensive clothes). The music and video and tech stores are filled with youth and others who are not affluent but spend like they are... And it's this spending that's more important than class, either class identity or history.
Photos ©2005 by RQ. Please do not copy, reproduce, fold, spindle, mutilate, or otherwise use them without written permission. Thanks!
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