Revolution#129, May 18, 2008

Defiant Marches for Immigrant Rights

At a time when the government is conducting a vicious anti-immigrant campaign of massive raids and roundups, tens of thousands of immigrants and supporters marched in cities around the U.S. on May Day. Last year alone, more than 275,000 immigrants were deported from the U.S. by ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement). On the border with Mexico, new walls and other “security” measures are being set up, where already hundreds of immigrants die each year trying to make the crossing. Extremist vigilantes like the Minutemen are stepping up anti-immigrant activity.

The immigrants who took the streets this May 1 were going up against all that and more. Many of the marchers have seen family members and friends snatched away by armed immigration police. A 20-year-old Latina marching in Reno, who said her family is struggling after her father was deported, said, “They’re separating families, and they don’t realize how bad that is. We’re all human beings. We should be treated equal.”

In Los Angeles, 10,000 people marched to demand rights for all immigrants and an end to the ICE raids. Two marches converged downtown—one starting near the district where garment factories are concentrated, and the other starting from MacArthur Park, where on May Day last year the LAPD violently attacked the march for immigrant rights and brutalized many protesters. Latino immigrants—including a group of workers from a Van Nuys factory that was recently raided by ICE—marched alongside immigrants from South Korea, the Philippines, and elsewhere. Students at several L.A. area high schools walked out in support of the march—some of the students have family members who have been deported by ICE. A young Salvadoran at MacArthur Park said, “Last year the police beat people up for demanding to be treated like any human being should be treated—with dignity. I heard a lot of rumors that ICE might show up to the marches and I think people are scared and maybe that’s why many people aren’t here now. But we need to face what’s happening and act to stop this. We are not in the wrong, the authorities are.”

In the San Francisco Bay Area, more than 10,000 people protested in various actions. Over 2,000 marched from Dolores Park in San Francisco’s Mission District to City Hall. Over 600 students at San Francisco State University walked out of their classes and blocked traffic to protest education cuts and then joined the immigration march. In San Jose about 5,000 rallied and marched to the Civic Center. In Oakland several thousand marched along International Boulevard for a rally downtown. In Santa Rosa in Marin County, north of San Francisco, an estimated 2,500 marched, including hundreds of students from Piner High School who walked out of school. There were also rallies in support of immigrant rights at UC Berkeley and UC Santa Cruz.

In Chicago, some 15,000 people (according to an Associated Press report), including immigrant workers from the surrounding suburbs and many high school students, marched and then rallied at the downtown Federal Plaza. May Day immigrant rights protests also took place in Milwaukee, St. Paul, Detroit, New York City, Washington (DC), Charlotte (North Carolina), Miami, Tucson, Albuquerque, Dallas, El Paso, Houston, Seattle, Salem (Oregon), Reno, Fresno, San Diego, and other cities.

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