May Day rallies in NYC, around the U.S.

May 1, 2008 7:14:42 PM PDT
Thousands of people gathered for mass demonstration in Manhattan and around the country Thursday, fighting for immigrant rights.Protesters held a rally in Union Square, then the protest was taken to the streets as demonstrators marched down Broadway.

Demonstrators also protested the war in Iraq and last week's verdict in the Sean Bell shooting case.

Many of the protestors began gathering at Union Square for the rally at noon. Another group marched across the Brooklyn Bridge to Sara Roosevelt Park on the Lower East Side, and then to Union Square.

The main group marched south on Broadway to the Jacob K. Javits Federal Office Building at 26 Federal Plaza, where federal immigration officials are based in New York.

A smaller group organzied a splinter march to Police Headquarters at One Police Plaza, where they protested the Bell verdict. Members of that group claim the issues of immigrant rights and police brutality are in many ways intertwined.

On the Web:

  • May1.info
  • BreakTheChainsNow.org
  • WobblyCity.org
  • IWW.org

    Nationwide, authorities say turnout has fallen sharply since the first nationwide rallies in 2006, when more than 1 million people - at least 400,000 in Chicago alone - flooded streets and brought traffic to a standstill.

    From Washington to Miami to Los Angeles, activists demanded citizenship opportunities for the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. and an end to raids and deportations.

    "We come here to fight for legalization. We're people. We have rights," said Eric Molina, an undocumented factory worker who immigrated to Zion, Ill., from Mexico.

    Molina, his sister and his 13-year-old daughter Erika, a U.S. citizen, were among about 15,000 people who rallied in Chicago in one of the largest demonstrations of the day.

    Turnout has fallen sharply since the first nationwide rallies in 2006, when more than 1 million people - at least 400,000 in Chicago alone - clogged streets and brought downtown traffic to a standstill. Activists say this year's efforts are focused less on protests and more on voter registration and setting an agenda for the next president.

    Some said participation likely was lower because many immigrants increasingly fear deportation.

    Margot Veranes, a volunteer organizer in Tucson, Ariz., - where 12,000 took to the streets last year but early estimates Thursday put the crowd at about 500 - blamed the turnout on aggressive enforcement by Border Patrol and police.

    "People have been stopped and deported in the last week. This is a community living in fear," said Veranes, a researcher for the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades. "You never know when you're going to be stopped by Border Patrol and now the police."

    But she said that's also why people were marching.

    "We're marching to end the raids and the deportations, but we're also marching for health care and education and good jobs," she said.

    Steamy downtown Houston saw between 300 and 400 marchers, including Victor Ibarra, 38, who said he entered the U.S. illegally from Mexico 15 years ago and remains undocumented although he's tried to attain legal status for the past seven years.

    "I'm here because we need immigration reform immediately," Ibarra said, wearing handcuffs and chains. "We need to be able to travel and be free."

    In Washington, immigrant rights groups and social justice organizations were demanding that Prince William County, in northern Virginia, rescind its anti-illegal immigration measure. They also called for an end to raids and deportations and for establishment of worker centers in Washington, Maryland and Virginia.

    Activists also asked the Republican and Democratic national committees to have their presidential candidates enact immigration reform.

    A crowd of about 1,000 gathered on the steps of the Oregon Capitol in Salem to call for changes in immigration and workplace laws within the first 100 days of the next congressional session. Many demanded that Oregon reverse a decision, imposed by the Legislature in February, to require proof of legal residence to get a driver's license.

    Hugo Orozzo, a 17-year-old high school senior, was among hundreds who marched through the streets of southwest Detroit. He was born in the U.S., but his father was born in Mexico and some other family members are originally from Mexico.

    "It is going to help my family and friends," Orozzo said of the effort. He carried a preprinted sign that read: "Stop raids and deportations that separate families!" in both English and Spanish. In Miami, 75 people marched to the regional immigration offices fr

    om the Little Haiti neighborhood. Among them was Elvira Carbajal, who came from Mexico more than a decade ago and is a U.S. citizen but said many of her family members are not.

    "They are going to grow up with this anger of the government for the loss of their parents, parents who were simply trying to give them a better life," she said.

    In San Francisco, protesters Marta Acuchi and her husband Jose, from Michoacan, Mexico, closed their child daycare center to march with about 400 others.

    "We need to fix the legal situation of immigrants," she said. "Even if it's not this year legislators are seeing we're still here, we're still marching, we're still knocking on their door."

    And in Milwaukee, factory worker Miguel Tesillos, 29, was among hundreds who lined sidewalks waiting for the march to begin.

    "Our people, we pay taxes, we pay the same as a citizen," said Tesillos, who has a Green Card. "Maybe the new president can see this point, and do something for us."

    But activists say they know it will be a challenge to push their issues to the political forefront.

    Immigration reform did not resonate with voters in primary elections who overwhelmingly listed the economy as their top concern. Immigration legislation has stalled and been defeated in the Senate, and presidential candidates have not extensively addressed the issues.

    Democratic presidential rivals Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton supported a 2006 bill, sponsored by Republican candidate John McCain, that offered illegal immigrants legal status on conditions such as learning English. All three also have supported a border fence.

    In Chicago, 17-year-old Celeste Rodarte marched with a group of her friends from the city's West Side. She said her parents came to the United States more than 20 years ago and became citizens last year.

    "I know a lot of people who don't have papers and I want to help them out," Rodarte said.

    Seventh-grader Vicente Campos of Milwaukee was granted an excused absence from school to attend the march. He said he was concerned by stories of immigration officials separating parents and children.

    "Immigrants come here to support their families in Mexico," said Campos, 13. "They're not all here to do crimes."


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