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Minneapolis: Immigrants, workers, Black Lives Matter march together on May 1

By staff |
May 3, 2015
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Marching May 1 in Minneapolis
Marching May 1 in Minneapolis (Fight Back! News/Staff)

Minneapolis, MN - On May 1, the annual International Workers Day march for immigrant and workers rights merged in the streets with a Black Lives Matter march. During rush hour the combined march took over all lanes in both directions of major arterial streets as they marched downtown to the Hennepin County Government Center. Chants and songs alternated between the themes of immigrant rights, workers’ rights and Black Lives Matter.

Earlier in the day, high school students walked out from many area schools and converged in Martin Luther King Park for a Black Lives Matter rally. From there they marched down Nicollet Avenue to join forces with the immigrant and workers’ rights march.

The Black Lives Matter walkout was “in solidarity with Black Lives Matter and the #MOA36 on their next court date while demanding that #BlackLivesMatter in all our classrooms. We will demand alternatives to suspensions, more African American History taught in the classrooms, no police officers in schools, and more. This is a moment for students to stand up and demand that Black lives matter in their classrooms and in this country!”

The International Workers Day march had four broad themes: respect, dignity, justice and equality, with nine specific demands focusing on immigrant and workers’ rights and equality. This year, in the context of mass protests and uprisings against racist police killings around the country, two of the march’s key demands aimed to unite the African American and Latino communities: “No racist police and ICE repression of our communities,” and “No more militarization of our borders, streets and barrios.”

International Workers Day marches have become an annual event here in the Twin Cities and in major cities around the country since 2006, where immigrant workers and unions march together to stand up for equality and legalization for immigrant workers, as well as basic rights for all workers and for unions.

According to the rally speech by Cherrene Horazuk, president of AFSCME Local 3800 , “International Workers’ Day is our day to stand united and raise our voices for our rights, respect, dignity and equality. It’s our day to show that its the working class that produces everything, and our fight for justice in our workplaces and our communities continues to grow.”

Marco Cruz Blanco, a Chicano Studies student at the University of Minnesota and a member of the Minnesota Immigrant Rights Action Committee (MIRAC), said, “There is something intrinsically powerful about marching side by side with our sisters and brothers for a social, as well as racial, equity in the workplace. We march collectively because our struggle extends beyond livable wages; we march because economic justice is social justice.”

While marching down Nicollet Avenue, the protest stopped in front of McDonalds, where a McDonalds worker from the Centro for Trabajadores Unidos en Lucha (CTUL) spoke about their struggle for $15 per hour and a union. Further down Nicollet the march also stopped in front of a Marshalls store, where CTUL highlighted the struggle of the workers who clean the store.

This year’s Minneapolis May 1st Coalition included over 40 organizations including many important Minnesota immigrant rights organizations, unions, student groups and social justice organizations.

May 1 is celebrated in most of the world as International Workers Day. In many countries it is a national holiday. International Workers Day has its origin in the fight for an 8-hour workday in the U.S., where there were massive strikes and sharp confrontations in May of 1886. Eight strike leaders were framed up and faced the death penalty. Four of them were executed, while one committed suicide and the other three were freed a decade later. May 1 was taken up as a day to remember the “Martyrs of Chicago” and the workers’ struggle around the world.