LOS ANGELES — Thousands of union members, immigrant-rights advocates and community activists descended on downtown Los Angeles May 1 for the annual May Day march.
This year’s march focused on three themes — defending workers’ rights, halting deportations that break up families and urging residents to vote in the upcoming mid-term elections.
Nearly three dozen unions and community organizations were involved in organizing the march, which began at noon in Pershing Square and extended into the evening hours.
The event began with a rally in front of the Immigration Court building adjacent to Pershing Square. Participants then marched east on Sixth Street, north on Main Street and east on Temple Street, ending outside the Roybal Federal Building at 255 E. Temple St., where another rally was held.
“These are the best of times to take a stand against the worst of times,” said Anjelica Salas, executive director for the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights. “We are one nation, one city, one community with diverse ideals, values and aspirations.
“On May Day we join together in the streets to mark a point in time when we tell this administration ‘enough is enough.’ Our best days are ahead of us if we stay united and committed to change.”
Rusty Hicks, president of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, aded: “When the rights of workers, immigrants and communities mobilizing to vote are threatened, the rights of all of us are threatened. Today, we’re marching for good, union jobs that our communities need and fighting back against the administration’s racist, xenophobic and anti-immigrant agenda.”
Many of the speakers were highly critical of President Donald Trump and his policies and positions.
“The presidential administration creates policies of hatred, racism and cruelty,” said Taqwa Bowie, a leader of Strategic Concepts in Organizing and Policy Education. “Community members are immigrants, black and brown people, people of varying backgrounds and nationalities, Muslim brothers and sisters.
“Each of them are an important part of the great economy of this country. The president should be celebrating them for their contributions.
One of the speakers was a county public defender who is trying to organize a union within the public defender’s office.
Ace Katano, a deputy public defender said, “As lawyers, and as public defenders, we’re not used to thinking of ourselves as workers; we’re focused on putting the well-being and freedom of our clients first.
“But we have begun to learn that we cannot fulfill our mission if we do not have a voice, and that voice can only come from a union. We are proud to stand with our brothers and sisters in the labor movement this May Day.”
Jim Mangia, CEO of St. John’s Well Child and Family Clinic in South Los Angeles, said: “St. John’s is proud to be the largest provider of health care services to undocumented immigrants in the country. We will stand up and resist any attempt to attack the human and constitutional rights of America’s immigrants.”
“We are determined to safeguard our communities from hatred and acts of xenophobia,” said Martha Arévalo, executive director of the Central American Resource Center. “Together, we can and will reach justice for our immigrant communities and every community that has been unfairly targeted by this administration. “We must continue to band together in the fight of our generation. We are determined to protect our communities and to march on May Day for justice.”
Although the Pershing Square march was the primary event of the day, other marches also were held.
The Full Rights for Immigrants Coalition and the People’s Congress of Resistance sponsored a march that went from Olympic Boulevard and Broadway to Broadway and Temple Street.
Countering the views of the marchers, a group known as the United Patriot National Front gathered for a rally on Broadway and First Street in the afternoon.
“The opposition will be marching to keep criminals from being deported and we will show the nation that we will not stand by idle as these communists try to ruin our country,” a posting on the group’s Facebook page said.
A group in Boyle Heights gathered at Cesar Chavez Avenue and Mathews Street and marched to Mariachi Plaza near First Street and Boyle Avenue. The march was expected to include students from Roosevelt and Garfield high schools, along with immigrant families speaking out against what they call a proliferation of private charter schools.
Union del Barrio Los Angeles planned a separate afternoon march beginning at MacArthur Park and ending at City Hall, supporting workers’ rights, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and legalization of street vending in the city.
The threat of rain may have kept the crowds smaller than expected. Some previous marches have drawn tens of thousands of people, unleashing seas of humanity onto downtown streets.
Police estimated that the crowd never got bigger than 5,000 people during the day.