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Tens of Thousands Rally for Immigrant Rights

by staff |
May 4, 2009
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March in LA. Sign: Obama! Escucha!
Above:
May 1st march in Los Angeles, CA (Fight Back! News)
Banners at the front of immigrant march (in Spanish)
Banners at the front of immigrant march (in Spanish)
Man with large Mexican flag
sign: "Stop the raids now!" Banner: "Legalization for All"
Upper right:
May 1st march in San Jose, CA. (Fight Back! News)
Upper left:
May 1st march in Minneapolis, MN (Fight Back! News)
Lower right:
May 1st march in Milwaukee, WI (Fight Back! News)
Lower left:
May 1st march in Minneapolis, MN (Fight Back! News)

On Friday, May 1, tens of thousands marched for immigrant rights in demonstrations across the country. The marches and rallies called for legalization of the undocumented, an end to the raids and deportations and maintaining family unity. Although smaller in the number than in previous years, the marches drew a broad cross-section of the Latino communities, including many families. There were also significant numbers of trade unionists and members of Asian American communities.

Perhaps the largest single march was in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where more than 20,000 people came out on May 1. The march was organized by Voces de la Frontera (Voices of the Frontier), a local immigrant rights group. In addition to a large turnout from the Latino community with Mexican and American flags, the march included union workers and students from the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. The Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) chapter carried a banner reading “Solidarity with all immigrants - No human being is illegal!”

In Los Angeles, nearly 10,000 hit the streets on May 1. Although there was not a single unified march as in other cities, each protest drew thousands of Chicanos, Mexicanos and Central Americans. There were also contingents from labor unions, Asian American communities and college campuses. There was a contingent of Salvadorans who support the leftist FMLN, whose candidate was just elected president of El Salvador. Many of the marchers had signs from the Southern California Immigration Coalition, one of the march organizers, reading, “Obama, escucha!” (Obama, listen!) that called on the president to stop the ICE raids, legalize the undocumented, oppose a guest worker program and support the right to organize.

The Chicago May 1 march drew more than 5000 despite the rain and a high level of concern about the new H1N1 flu virus. The demonstration was organized by the Centro Sin Fronteras and the March 10th Coalition and led off with a banner calling for legalization. The march included workers from the Republic Windows factory and a large contingent from Teamsters 743. Armando Robles, president of UE local 1110, representing the Republic Windows workers, said “We go out to demand not only immigration reform with full equality for all the immigrants, but we also march for the whole working class.”

In the California bay area, there were large marches in Oakland, San Francisco and San José. The protesters for immigrant rights had to brave an unusual rain, but were in high spirits. In San José, a thousand people chanted “¡Obama, escucha, estamos en la lucha! (Obama, listen, we are here to fight!), while speakers called on the president to live up to promises of immigration reform in the first year. Many of the marchers had signs reading “Crush ICE,” referring to the hated Immigration and Custom Enforcement which has been carrying out raids of workplaces and communities to deport the undocumented.

Immigrant rights marches also were held in other large cities such as New York, Washington, D.C., Miami, Houston and Denver as well as in smaller cities and towns.

In Minneapolis, hundreds took part in a march led by the Minneapolis Immigrant Rights Action Coalition. In addition to demands to stop the raids and deportations and for legalization, marchers also called for state drivers licenses to be granted to the undocumented and supported the Employee Free Choice Act or EFCA. Mary Lou Middleton, vice-president of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3800 urged everyone to support the EFCA, “So that all workers are protected from exploitation by their employer.” The Minneapolis marchers were refused a permit by the city, but they fought for an endorsement from the city council and went ahead with the protest.

In addition to the marchers, thousands more watched and supported the protests. In Minneapolis, Alejandro Flores stepped out of her workplace to watch. “I’m so happy,” she said, “I’m sad that I have to be at work and can’t join. ¡Viva los inmigrantes!”

 

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