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Hundreds march to Minnesota Capitol on May 1 to demand drivers licenses for immigrants

By staff |
May 2, 2019
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May Day march in St Paul, MN.
May Day march in St Paul, MN. (Fight Back! News/Staff)

Saint Paul, MN - Hundreds of immigrants, union members and activists marched to the Minnesota State Capitol on May 1, International Workers Day. They demanded that the state legislature pass a bill to give immigrants access to drivers licenses, without adding amendments to further criminalize immigrants. They also raised other demands for immigrant and workers’ rights while commemorating the workers who lost their lives in 1886 in the struggle for an eight-hour workday.

The march was organized by the May 1st Coalition - Twin Cities, which includes a variety of grassroots immigrant rights and social justice organizations and was endorsed by more than 50 organizations and unions.

The protest began at 3 p.m. at University Avenue and Dale Street in Saint Paul, then marched east on University Avenue through the Frogtown neighborhood, which is home to many immigrants and refugees as well as immigrant-owned businesses from Southeast Asia, Latin America and East Africa.

Aztec Dancers from Elohuayotl Mitotiani led the march, along with the coalition’s lead banners that read “May 1st International Workers Day” and demanding a drivers license for all without criminalizing immigrants.

When marchers arrived to the capitol, they rallied on the front steps. Speakers there included Francisco Chavez of MORENA-Minnesota, Zarlasht Niaz of AFSCME Local 3800, Jovita Morales of the Minnesota Immigrant Movement, Meredith Aby of the Anti-War Committee, Ashley of the Minnesota Immigrant Rights Action Committee (MIRAC), Marco Davila of the Immigrant Movement for Justice, and Loretta Van Pelt of the Twin Cities Coalition for Justice for Jamar.

After rallying on the steps, the protesters marched into the capitol building. There they chanted in the rotunda, demanding drivers licenses for all, then chanted outside the chamber where the senate was in session. A final rally in the rotunda closed out the day’s activities.

The drivers license bill is still in play in the state legislature as it heads into the final stretch of the legislative session. Immigrant rights organizations will continue to push for legislators to pass a drivers license bill this session without amendments that criminalize immigrants.

There was also a May Day march in Minneapolis organized by the union UNITE HERE to support hotel workers whose contract has expired.