Workers, immigrants, rally for May Day

May day outside City hall. Photo by Lola M. Chavez

In a demonstration of solidarity with worker and immigrant rights activists around the nation, protesters streamed onto Market Street and into Civic Center Plaza on Monday to mark May Day, also known as International Workers Day. Locally, it was also pronounced a Day Without Immigrants to protest federal immigration policies. Thousands marched down Market Street, according to police estimates, and hundreds stayed to rally in front of City Hall.

“This year the level of people afraid of being deported is out of control. I spoke to so many people, so many families afraid to leave the house,” said Roberto Hernandez, a Mission activist and one of the organizers of the march. “Being here today is like therapy… Families are here and they’re smiling, we’re giving them hope and strength and courage. There’s laws in place in this country, we’re not just going to hide.”

Photo by Lola M. Chavez

Artist Dogpaw Carrillo, a Mission resident, said he had attended a similar action in 2006 that drew thousands.

“ICE is a real thing, but there are a lot of people here who weren’t there then who are experiencing long lines at the airport, journalists who need a line of defense, teachers, nurses, janitors. And that matters,” Carrillo said. “We feel good. I see a lot of faces here that normally would not come out to the city for anything political.”

One transgender demonstrator, Mariposa, called attention to the treatment of trans immigrants.

“I’m here today to hold space for the Trans community,” they said. “Trans women in the ICE facilities, they are being placed into male facilities, which increases their chances of sexual violence. I’m here for them.”

Photo by Lola M. Chavez

Coinciding with the march was the closure of multiple businesses in the Mission and throughout the city. In the weeks leading up the march, organizers spoke with business owners in the Mission to rally support for the strike.

“We made sure the commitment was there that our people stand as one,” said one of the march’s organizers, Frank Lara, a teacher at Buena Vista Horace Mann in the Mission and an activist with the ANSWER Coalition. “And that all of the contributions that immigrant labor puts out, that we were able to shut it down [today].”

Organizers lauded the peaceful nature of the march, which while boisterous and large did not result in any confrontations with officials. But the atmosphere turned a little less congenial when a park ranger began ticketing unlicensed vendors selling ice cream in the sunny Civic Center plaza. Protesters descended on the scene, shouting “shame on you” at the ranger and admonishing the vendor not to sign anything.

A park ranger tickets a paletero. Photo by Lola M. Chavez

“I need you to tear that up. I’m asking you to tear that up,” one of the organizers, Olga Miranda, president of the labor union SEIU Local 87, told the ranger.

As the ranger walked away, the vendor remained behind, shaking with nerves. Activists promised they would talk to the appropriate agency to see about getting the citation rescinded or cover the cost for him.

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