On a day workers around the world have traditionally marked as a day to protest for labor rights, immigrants have added their voices, or rather their absence, to make a point. On May 1, or May Day, many around the Bay Area and the Mission closed up shop for a day without immigrants.
“I want to support my community,” said Robert Sanchez, owner of El Taco Loco at 3274 24th St. Although Sanchez could be found inside of his business on Monday, his staff was absent, and a sign hung up in the storefront read in bold letters “Cerrado – Por Apoyar (closed – in support).”
Most of those employed with the 30-year-old business, said Sanchez, are immigrants.
“No hay pan, nada (There’s no bread, nothing),” said a woman walking past La Victoria Bakery at 2937 24th St. The panaderia, nearly 70 years old, also closed its doors Monday in a show of support. Those who walked a few blocks up to try their luck at La Reyna Bakery, located at 3114 24th St., were met by locked doors and a storefront devoid of pastries.
Other neighborhood staples and legacy businesses along the 24th Street Corridor, a designated Latino Cultural District spanning roughly from Mission Street to Potrero Avenue along 24th Street, participated in the day-long action.
Signage on the entrance of Precita Eyes Muralists at 2981 24th St. stated that the local arts organization would be closed all day for “repairs and for Day with No Immigrants.” Outside of the shuttered storefront of Alley Cat Books at 3036 24th St., a poster board was decorated with the word “Resist.”
And a Coca Cola delivery truck driver who was en route to delivering inventory to Belmar La Gallinita Meat Market at the corner of 24th and Harrison streets, looked inside of the shut-down storefront, visibly puzzled. The man snapped a photo of a poster announcing the action that was hung in the market’s storefront, before retreating to his truck.
“I didn’t realize they were closed today, but it makes sense,” he said, upon being informed about the ‘Day Without Immigrants” protest.
Staffed largely by immigrants, most corner stores along 24th Street also followed suit – George’s Market at the corner of Shotwell Street, Maurice’s Cornerstone at Treat and 24th Streets and Sammy’s Liquor and Groceries on Bryant Street were shut down for the day.
A sign in the window of Temo’s Cafe at the corner of 24th and Harrison streets offered would-be patrons an explanation for the business’ closure. “San Francisco and the Mission District, as well as other neighborhoods in the city, are characterized by their cultural diversity whose richness is due to their communities of immigrants who live and work there,” the sign read. “The Day Without Immigrants will be a way to express our support for these communities and to recognize them as an essential part of this city.”
Outside of Taqueria Vallarta, which was also closed for the day, a maintenance worker and a passerby could be overheard discussing the effectiveness of the protest.
“I don’t think it will make a difference personally – these stores will be closed. But go up to Valencia Street and they will be open because its a more Anglo area,” said the woman, who gave her name as Carmen. “I think the Latinos [in the Mission] have to be more unified.”
At 38 percent, the Mission has the densest Latino population in San Francisco despite that proportion dropping from 50 percent since 2000. Overall, immigrants make up 35 percent of the city’s population. A more aggressive federal stance on immigration has prompted protests and marches citywide since the election, including one prior day without immigrants in February. On Monday, protesters took to the streets all over the city, including at Immigration and Customs Enforcement headquarters. That was followed by a march from Justin Hermann Plaza to Civic Center later in the day.
Freddy, who was overseeing repairs inside of the shuttered Taqueria Vallarta and is a friend of the owner, said he supports the business’ decision to close on the busy corridor, adding that he himself had called out of his other job as a plumber to participate in the action.
“I think its a good thing, I have friends and family who are all immigrants,” said Freddy, who is from Mexico.
A few businesses along Valencia Street also closed their doors in protest, including Arizmendi Bakery, the Mexican goods store Casa Bonampak, and the nonprofit Dolores Street Community Services.
One woman read the notice on the door of the Mission Street felt goods store Peace Industry and remarked, “It’s good. Something’s got to change.”
“As a business founded by an immigrant, Peace Industry will be closed on Monday, May 1st to express our support for the immigrant community who is being targeted unjustly by laws that tear apart families. No business as usual,” wrote the owners of Peace Industry.
The popular Peruvian ceviche counter and restaurant Cholo Soy also remained closed Monday in support of the protest, as did bar and restaurant Cha Cha Cha.
Just a few doors away, Chely’s Beauty Salon was also shut, its windows sporting flyers encouraging immigrants to join the march.
“For the defense of immigrant rights! No to the wall, no to the anti-muslim ban!” the flyers read.
Proud of my barrio!