Berlin Wall Tumbles Again
L.A. recreates historic fall of communism on Wilshire Blvd.
When the Berlin Wall fell in Germany 20 years ago, it marked the end of communism in parts of the world. Many thought it would never happen, but the event excited people across the globe when it did. That experience and excitement were recreated on Wilshire Blvd. in Los Angeles Sunday night, marking the anniversary of one the most historic events in the 20th century.
"The Berlin Wall was tyranny—a communist tyranny—keeping freedom away from most people," said Kent Twitchell, an L.A.-based artist involved with The Wall Project at the Wende Museum in L.A. Twitchell was one of several artists who painted murals on the 40-foot segment of the wall on display.
A second segment built of Styrofoam joined the original concrete section across the boulevard. At midnight Sunday, as the calendar turned to November 9, the Styrofoam wall came tumbling down in a recreation of the original event on that day in 1989. On the other side of the globe, Berliners at the original site watched a live video as art patrons carried off lightweight replicas of concrete blocks.
A Symbol of Freedom
Construction of the Berlin Wall began on August 13, 1961. Crossing points between East and West Berlin were closed on that day by German Democratic Republic forces. Armed soldiers guarded the wall with orders to shoot anyone trying to escape from one side to the other.
People on each side of Berlin were completely cut off from each other. Families were split and many died trying to get over the wall to freedom on the west side.
After 28 years, travel restrictions were lifted and many thousands of people crowded around the Berlin Wall, hoping to get through. A casual comment by an official to a reporter on the site caused a stampede of people who began tearing down the obstruction and opening up the city.
"The unnatural separation of a city in two halves and the separation of Germany finally came to an end," said Klaus Wowereit, the current Mayor of Berlin, as he watched the L.A. re-creation. "We delight in the fact that Americans were reliable partners in the fight for freedom and democracy."
Artists painted segments of the Berlin Wall, leaving much of the original graffiti. These segments were painted by artists Twitchell, Thierry Noir, Marie Astrid Gonzalez, and Farrah Karapetian. Thierry Noir is one of the first people to begin painting on the actual Berlin Wall in 1984.
The Styrofoam replica, called "Wall Across Wilshire," was also painted by Noir and Shephard Fairey, creator of the iconic "HOPE" poster from President Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign.
"Our wall does not look like the Berlin Wall, it does not have the same purpose as the Berlin Wall, and thankfully for all of us that wall will never be built again," said Justinian Jampol, director of the Wende Museum. "But we all have walls in our lives, walls in our minds, walls along our streets, and for tonight we have a wall across our street."
That wall didn't last for long, however. At the stroke of midnight, jubilant spectators tore into the replica with gusto and cheers. As President Ronald Reagan said publicly to then-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev Chancellor in 1987, "Tear down this wall!"
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