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Hundreds march May 1 in Minneapolis for immigrant and workers’ rights

By Brad Sigal |
May 2, 2018
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May Day march in Minneapolis
May Day march in Minneapolis (Fight Back! News/staff)

Minneapolis, MN - Several hundred people marched for nearly three miles in south Minneapolis May 1 for immigrant and workers’ rights. The march on International Workers Day was initiated by the Minnesota Immigrant Rights Action Committee (MIRAC) and endorsed by 46 organizations and unions, including the Minneapolis and Saint Paul Regional Labor Federations and many individual unions.

The marchers gathered at 3:30 p.m. at Lake Street and Nicollet Avenue, a working-class neighborhood with many Latin American and East African immigrants and refugees. The opening rally speakers were Gabriel Black Elk from Native Lives Matter, a representative from the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) and Jaylani Hussein, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). Kalpulli Ketzalcoatlicue danced to an enthusiastic reception.

After that, the marchers left Lake and Nicollet and went west on Lake Street toward Lyndale Avenue, taking all four lanes in both directions to shut down the major traffic artery completely. The march’s two emcees, both Latina high school students, kept the crowd pumped with pro-immigrant, pro-worker and anti-Trump chants in Spanish and English. When the marchers arrived at Lyndale Avenue - a more upscale area - they then turned around and headed back east on Lake Street for over a mile.

The march got a very warm reception as they passed by the numerous Latino and East African shops along Lake Street. Many workers and customers poured out of shops and homes to see what was happening and to greet the marchers. People waved, gave peace signs and raised fists, and many people quickly took out their cell phones to take video and pictures of the march. As the march went by, members of MIRAC handed out hundreds of copies of the 13-point Sanctuary Platform to people in the neighborhood.

During the march, a Mexican immigrant woman from MIRAC talked about the struggle to win a Minneapolis Municipal ID. This is a key part of the Sanctuary Platform, so immigrants can get a form of identification that local police will accept, which is one way to try to reduce detentions and deportations. The Minneapolis city council is discussing the idea of a Municipal ID, and activists are pressing for them to do it as soon as possible.

The marchers went south on Bloomington Avenue and arrived at Powderhorn Park for a closing political and cultural program. Performers there included Kalpulli Ketzalcoatlicue; Puerto Rican hip hop artist Maria Isa, who performed several powerful political songs while holding a black and white Puerto Rican flag, and local rappers Fluenzy and Chrisology.

The performers were interspersed with union speakers. David Gilbert-Pederson of Minnesota Workers United spoke, saying, “Solidarity must be worldwide. Events like today are heartening, but there is much work ahead; and the onslaught against the working class will only intensify. In the days ahead, we take strength from the giants whose shoulders we stand on. The Haymarket martyrs who helped spark a nationwide movement for an eight-hour day. The Black Sanitation workers from Memphis who were joined by Martin Luther King showing the connection between workers and civil rights. And from Larry Itliong and Delores Huerta who brought the horrific treatment of immigrant workers to light. Take heart because under capitalism and imperialism no one can be free while others are oppressed. So, keep fighting, keep struggling, keep striking, keep winning.”

Julie Blaha, the secretary-treasurer of the Minnesota AFL-CIO also spoke, followed by a rank-and-file Minneapolis teacher who talked about the current wave of teacher strikes and the powerful organizing going on to defend public education.

The rally was closed out with a powerful spoken word piece about the realities of being a young Latina immigrant in the U.S., and then an appeal to stay involved with the immigrant rights struggle.