In recent years International Worker's Day, which originated in the United States, was commemorated across the country with events in support of the rights of immigrants and all working people. Following are reports from the streets.
Photo: Immigrants and Refugees
Photo: Jon Britton
Photo: John Roberts
Thousands of demonstrators joined in the annual May Day march, flooding the streets of downtown Los Angeles to demand an immediate end to deportations and for full immigrant rights. The first of two marches this year was organized by the May Day Coalition, and traveled from Chinatown to the L.A. detention center. The march made a call to keep our families together, focusing on how sweeping deportations leave families broken, terrorize immigrant communities and disrupt the very fabric of working people's lives.
Present at the march were a spectrum of labor groups, such as the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor (AFL-CIO) and the Clean Car Wash Campaign, immigrant advocacy groups such as the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights L.A. (CHIRLA) and the Koreatown Immigrant Workers Alliance, and health advocacy groups such as a community outreach extension of St. John's hospitals which serves the people of South Central. This year also featured a queer contingent made up of LGBTQ health care agencies and advocacy groups, such as the Latino Equality Alliance and St John's hospitals transgender health services.
The second march organized by the Coalition for Full Immigrant Rights began at Olympic and Broadway and marched along the usual route along Broadway in downtown L.A. This march attracted a massive crowd of demonstrators demanding an immediate end to deportations and respect for immigrant workers. Drawing from the traditionally immigrant communities in downtown, the march was incredibly spirited and highly visible, bringing hundreds of onlookers along the downtown strip out into the streets. The passion and vitality of the march resonated in many of the slogans that were heard echoing throughout the heart of the city: "Obama, escucha. ¡Estamos en la lucha!"; "¡Aquí, aya, la lucha seguirà!"; "¡El pueblo unido, jamas sera vencido!"; "¡Los immigrantes, ¡somos importantes!"
ANSWER Los Angeles and WORD (Women Organized to Resist and Defend) were proud to be represented at the march in saying "2 million deported and not one more! Amnesty for all immigrants now!"
May Day protests began at 2:00 p.m. with a large march of hundreds of immigrants and families from Union Station to Capitol Hill, across the National Mall and up to the White House. The march was youthful and energetic, led by youth and immigrant families from Maryland and Virginia, and joined by youth from Georgia, Texas and Arizona with the Not One More Deportation campaign. This May Day protest has followed near daily protests and acts of civil disobedience in D.C. targeting the Obama administration's deportation record.
Protesters, coming out of the shadows as undocumented and demanding an end to deportations, focused their chants and demands on the president. The march ended with the arrest of 12 people who sat down on the White House sidewalk. Hundreds rallied around the White House civil disobedience, holding banners and "Not One More Deportation" signs, playing traditional Mexican Son Jarocho music, and chanting through the evening.
Later in the afternoon, a group of hundreds of protesters, including many students, rallied at Malcolm X Park and marched through the historic Columbia Heights neighborhood to the White House. Columbia Heights—in the midst of a struggle against gentrification—is home to many Latina/o workers, who often stood outside their workplaces and homes to watch the march. All along the march, protesters chanted slogans reflecting worker solidarity and struggle.
Over 700 people marched through the streets of Chicago on May Day demanding an end to deportations and full equality. The march started at the historic Haymarket Memorial and went through downtown Chicago where the march ended at an ICE detention center. Chants of “2 million too many!” and “ni uno mas!” could be heard throughout the streets. Undocumented students and youth, along with partners of people who have been deported, spoke out in front of the ICE detention center. Members of the ANSWER Coalition and Party for Socialism and Liberation chanted and carried placards saying “Full equality for all immigrants now!”
At 4:00 p.m. on International Workers’ Day, an energized contingent of workers, community and labor activists, and students came together for a march and rally to “Unite and Fight the 1%.” The event was organized by over 30 groups as part of the Philly May 1st Coalition, of which the ANSWER Coalition is a member. The rally began with an update on the struggle for justice for Dr. Anthony Monteiro. The targeted, racist firing of Dr. Monteiro by Dean Soufas of Temple University for his activism and advocacy for North Philadelphia is symbolic of the ongoing oppression faced by the Black community all across the city.
Activists then took to the streets of the wealthy downtown Center City area with various chants such as “We are unstoppable, another world is possible!”
Pam Africa of MOVE gave a fiery condemnation outside of the District Attorney’s office for their corruption and attacks against the community, along with an immediate demand for the release of political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal. Natalie Midiri of Strike Student Debt called for intensified struggle against predatory student loan schemes that, if not combated, are certain to lead to a drastic nationwide student debt crisis.
Outside of Wells Fargo and Bank of America locations, the financial institutions were blasted for their direct involvement in the investment in private prisons and closure of public schools in Philadelphia, an all-out assault on youth known as the school-to-prison pipeline.
Outside of the Israeli consulate, Sam Pinto and Rose Daraz of Temple Students for Justice in Palestine boldly condemned the Zionist apartheid state’s genocide against the Palestinian people, which is massively funded and supported by the U.S. government as its imperialist outpost in the Middle East.
Retail and restaurant workers detailed the suffering caused to them and their families due to precarious working hours and poverty wages, along with the immediate demand for a $15 minimum wage.
Several thousand workers and community members, largely Latino/a, marched for workers' and immigrant rights on May 1 in San José, Calif. Unions organizing sizable contingents included the Laborers' International Union, United Food and Commercial Workers, and UNITE HERE. Other organizations with a presence included Latinos United for a New America, which played a leading role in the march and rally that followed; Voluntarios de la Comunidad, which also played a prominent role; Student Advocates for Higher Education at San José State; the San José Peace and Justice Center; Human Agenda; Services, Immigrant Rights and Education Network; and the ANSWER Coalition.
A unique feature of the rally that followed the three-mile march to City Hall was an educational presentation on the historical origins of May Day.
Chava Bustamante, a long-time labor leader and now also a leader of LiUNA, made a strong appeal for the rally audience to contact President Obama demanding he “Bring Antonia Home.” ICE had deported Antonia Aquilar the previous day, even though she was the only caregiver to her three children living in the United States. The message suggested was: “The President's inaction is destroying our families and communities. I demand that the president stop deporting our families now!”
The number to call is (202) 456-1111. Student Advocates for Higer Education have also launched a drive to collect 100,000 signatures on an online petition directed at the White House.
Several thousand people marched from St. Mary’s Church in the Central District to Westlake Park downtown in unseasonably hot temperatures. The crowd was mostly composed of immigrant workers and their supporters, as well as supporters of a raise in the minimum wage in Seattle to $15 an hour. Spirited chants targeted the Obama administration’s policy of massive deportation: “Obama, Obama, Don’t deport my mama!” and “Obama, escuche, estamos en la lucha!” The march concluded with a rally at Westlake during which socialist City Council member Kshama Sawant delivered a blistering rebuttal to Mayor Ed Murray’s inadequate proposal to raise the minimum wage.
In the evening after the immigrant rights march, several predominantly anarchist marches took place in downtown. There was a heavy police presence and use of pepper spray, and about six arrests, fewer than were made on May Day 2012 and 2013. It remains to be seen whether the authorities will launch another anti-radical/anarchist witch-hunt in the aftermath of May Day 2014, as occurred in the past two years.
This year marked the Syracuse May Day Committee's third annual event. The rally was held at Perseverance Park in downtown Syracuse, the former home of Occupy Syracuse, which is right next to a new housing and commercial development. The rally began with a poetry reading by Leyla Felhan, a student from Cyprus, and one of the event's organizers. Next, Michael Kowalchuk, of the Syracuse PSL, spoke about the origins of May Day--the real labor day.
The highlight of the rally was a presentation by Rebecca Fuentes, of the Workers' Center of Central New York, and Jose Cañas, a worker and leader in the Dairy Farmworkers' Campaign, who is originally from El Salvador.
Fuentes and Cañas spoke about the local campaign, which is fighting against the severe exploitation of undocumented farm workers who produce dairy products, a major staple of the local and state economy. New York leads the United States in milk and greek yogurt production, yet the workers who make this possible endure wage theft, long hours, dangerous conditions, and 7-day work weeks.
Brian Hennigan was the last speaker. He is a local student and an organizer of Graduate Students United at Syracuse University, a newly formed organization that is fighting to organize teaching, research and graduate assistants. These academic laborers, he said, do one-third of the teaching at the $40,000-per-year university, and earn on average $17,000 during the academic year.
Asheville, North Carolina
At the height of the two-hour Asheville May Day demonstration over 40 people and seven different organizations were represented including the ANSWER Coalition, Party for Socialism and Liberation, International Socialist Organization, Freedom Road Socialist Organization, Industrial Workers of the World, local union officers and members from the Immigrant Workers Rights Council of NC. Speeches were given, chants and songs were sung. A call to action was set for the following day in response to an organizing campaign at a local newspaper. Afterwards there was a lively BBQ.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Members of the ANSWER Coalition participated in one of four separate May Day marches in Albuquerque, which converged on Gateway Park. The Gateway Park celebration was the initiative of El Centro de Igualdad y Derechos, with other organizations coordinating the four directional marches.
Some of the slogans included: “Stop Deportations Now,” “$15 Minimum/Fight For Fifteen,” “End Police Cooperation with ICE” and “Equal Pay for Women.” The four marches from the four cardinal directions converged to join hundreds of people in Albuquerque’s Gateway Park in celebration of May Day.
A diverse crowd attended the celebrations, including union organizers, immigrants rights activists, students and a wide variety of community members. Other community organizations involved includied Los Jardines institute, La Raza Unida Party, UNM Red Student Faction, OLE (Organizing in the Land of Enchantment) and others.