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Mass Marches for Immigrant and Workers Rights Across the U.S. on May Day 2007

by Brad Sigal |
May 4, 2007
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Big crowd. Sign = "Stop the raids"
Chicago, May 1, 2007 (Fight Back! News)
Women chanting within huge march
Huge march. Big banner = Legalizacion
Big march in LA, sort-of arial view
March in Mpls. Star-shaped signs with immigrant rights slogans
Upper right:
Chicago, May 1, 2007 (Fight Back! News)
Upper left:
LA, May 1, 2007 (Fight Back! News)
Lower right:
LA, May 1, 2007 (Fight Back! News)
Lower left:
Minneapolis, May 1, 2007 (Fight Back! News)

Hundreds of thousands of immigrant workers and their supporters marched in cities around the U.S. on May 1, International Workers Day. The marchers' main demands were for immediate legalization for all undocumented immigrants and an immediate end to the wave of raids and deportations targeting Mexican, Latin American, and other immigrant workers.

In Chicago 250,000 people marched in the largest protest in the country. Doris Ramirez of Chicago's March 10th Coalition said, "Si se pudo! The message from the march was loud and clear - the people came out to demand an end to the ICE raids, an end to the separation of families and legalization for all, NOW." In Chicago people were galvanized by an immigration raid on Tuesday, April 24th in Little Village (La Villita). In response to that raid, which included over 30 federal agents armed with assault rifles in a neighborhood shopping mall and the outpouring of anger that this attack called forth, the movement set aside political differences and united to stop raids and deportations. The attack was so bad, the response was so angry, and the unity was so broad that even Chicago's Mayor Daley spoke at the rally - he was not scheduled to speak one week before.

In Los Angeles, there were two protests. In a march organized by the March 25 Coalition, as many as 100,000 people protested in the largest demonstration there since last year's historic May Day protest. According to Carlos Montes, a long-time leader in the Chicano liberation movement and a leader in the National May 1st Movement for Worker and Immigrant Rights, "a hundred thousand immigrants were energized when they took to the streets of downtown LA to demand legalization and an end to the raids."

A second rally organized by Somos America in the afternoon was attacked by police in riot gear violently ejecting thousands of people from MacArthur Park, attacking the crowd and even journalists with batons, tear gas and rubber bullets. This was an unprovoked display of police brutality against peaceful marchers. The March 25 Coalition held a press conference on May 2 to denounce the police brutality and announce the next steps the movement will take in response.

In the face of an announced May 1 work stoppage by truck drivers and International Longshore & Warehouse Union members at California ports, the Los Angeles Port Authority preemptively said they would close the ports for a May 1 "holiday." This was an important victory that recognized immigrant workers' power and ensured that the May 1 day of action would have a serious economic impact.

Thousands also marched in the rest of California, including over 10,000 in San Francisco. There were marches in other cities including San Jose, Oakland, Davis, Sacramento, Fresno, Santa Cruz and Watsonville. Further up the West Coast, more than 5,000 people marched in Seattle. There were dozens of marches throughout the Southwest, including Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Tucson, Denver, San Antonio, Dallas, Austin, and Las Vegas.

About 800 people marched in Raleigh, North Carolina, and hundreds of immigrant rights supporters in a dozen towns across western North Carolina marched under the slogan of "safe communities without fear - stop separating families through deportation."

In New York City thousands rallied for workers and immigrant rights in Union Square. There were also marches in Boston and many other northeastern cities.

In Milwaukee, organizers and the media reported a turnout of around 80,000 people there, surpassing the size of last year's May Day march. In Minneapolis, organizers reported that two to three thousand people marched through the heart of the Latino immigrant community on Lake Street. The crowd grew as some key local businesses on the march route closed at 4:00 and passers-by joined in, swelling the crowd. Like Milwaukee, Minneapolis was one of the cities where this year's march was at least as big if not bigger than last year's May Day rally. William Martinez of the Minnesota Immigrant Rights Action Coalition (MIRAC) said, "once again the community made their presence known in coming out to struggle and demand their rights." There were also marches in other Midwestern cities such as Detroit, Racine and Madison.

Most of the media reports about May 1 said the marches were smaller than last year. It's true that unprecedented numbers, millions of people, marched last year to defeat the Sensenbrenner Bill. Many immigrant rights organizers around the country noted that this year people didn't perceive the same immediate legislative threat as they did last year with the Sensenbrenner bill, and many immigrant workers feel threatened by the wave of raids and deportations going on around the country.

But at least a few cities had larger marches this May Day than last year. And according to immigrant rights organizers, the real story is that hundreds of thousands of people marched on May Day in cities across the United States for the second year in a row – something that would have seemed unimaginable just a few years ago. According to Minnesota Immigrant Rights Action Coalition (MIRAC) member Erika Zurawski, "The May Day marches are truly a grassroots movement - immigrant workers came out of the shadows and put their demands on the agenda, demanding legalization for all, full equality, and an end to the raids and deportations. This year's May Day marches were a successful display of immigrant and workers' power."