OCEAN AVE — “A time comes when silence is betrayal.”
Members of the Occupy Venice organization rallied to those words by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Monday in Palisades Park in an attempt to show through their actions that they would no longer be silent.
Approximately 30 activists gathered in the park for a potluck meal, silk screening of protest shirts and speeches before beginning their march along the boardwalk to Venice Beach in honor of King and in solidarity with other peaceful protesters across the country.
They came outfitted with a boom box to broadcast historic speeches as they walked.
To keep things running smoothly, protesters wearing red clown noses were tasked with the security detail while others held signs and repeated messages delivered to them by organizers en masse like a human loudspeaker.
“What we’re fighting here is injustice,” one of the men wearing a clown nose said.
The day was particularly appropriate to showcase the Occupy movement because of King’s emphasis on equality, a message often lost in his more visible fight against racism and in favor of social justice, said The Rev. Jenenne Macklin of the Living Light Spiritual Center in Los Angeles.
According to the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change, founded by King’s wife in 1968, King shifted his focus from race to economic inequality after the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965.
His work in this area, which he continued until his assassination in 1968, created the “Poor People’s Campaign,” a coalition of impoverished Americans that stretched beyond racial lines.
The Poor People’s Campaign and its message was an extension of King’s earlier work to bring equality amongst the races, Macklin said.
“That was the underlying message: equality,” Macklin said. “… There’s enough here for us all to be OK.”
In that way, the Occupy movement mirrors King’s work in the 1960s by extending the message of economic equality and the notion of what government should provide its people and its corporations.
The Occupy movement began in New York City in September 2011 with a group of people who began camping out near Wall Street in protest of the wealth gap they believe is created and perpetuated by America’s capitalist system.
It hit a common chord with members of the public angry about the devastating financial collapse that dragged down the United States’ economy and spiked the unemployment rate, putting many out of work even as the government intervened to save the corporations that helped create the problem.
Branches popped up all over the nation, with groups “occupying” public spaces and forming cooperative assemblies as part of the burgeoning political movement.
Venice was a natural place for such a movement to take root because of its tradition of nonviolent protest, and the pier was selected to begin the march for its high visibility, said Mike Chamness, one of the coordinators of the march.
Venetian protesters occupied Windward Circle until protesters were forcefully removed, Chamness said.
Occupy Venice has held several events in Santa Monica, including one on the Third Street Promenade with former mayor Michael Feinstein.