Thousands gather in Oakland for May Day actions
Marilyn Bechtel/PW

OAKLAND, Calif., May 1 – Protesters came from nearby cities and from many labor and people’s struggles to join in an International Workers’ Day rally for immigrant and labor rights in this city’s heavily Latino Fruitvale neighborhood. Many were participating in a one-day strike for immigrant rights, in the face of the Trump administration’s ongoing attempts to undo those rights.

Among other topics highlighted were the environment, affordable housing, civil and women’s rights – all facing new threats at the national level.

Hotel and restaurant workers, including Fight for $15 activists, joined with their counterparts in janitorial services, health care, education, building trades, and others in a crowd estimated at 5,000. Linking arms for the protest were a broad spectrum of organizations representing immigrants from all corners of the world. Environmental organizations included the Sierra Club, Greenpeace and anti-Dakota Access Pipeline campaigners.

Janitors’ union activist Maria Trujillo told the crowd, “For many years I was an undocumented immigrant, so I could bring my family, so we could have a better life. I’m now a citizen, but I know what it’s like to live in fear.”

Trujillo said immigrant women suffer attacks of many types, and are often afraid to report them because they fear the police may turn them over to immigration authorities. Huge applause followed her appeal to rally participants to stand with immigrant women workers.

Several speakers highlighted the urgent need for the liberation of Palestine. A highlight of the rally was the participation of Qassam Barghouti, son of Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti who has been jailed in Israel for the last 15 years.

Qassam Barghouti said his father and hundreds of his fellow prisoners are currently on hunger strike protesting Israeli abuse of jailed Palestinians. His father was convicted “of only one thing,” he said, “being a freedom fighter for his people … I need you all to raise your voice, to stand up with us, because they are asking for their basic human rights – nothing more than that.”

Haiti Action Committee leader Pierre Labossiere said that over many decades, Haitian people have been forced to flee their homeland and many thousands have died. “Our problems are similar to those of many of you who have been forced to flee for your lives. Today we are here to say, we are present in unity, in solidarity with brothers and sisters all over the world who are marching today, demanding an end to military rule, imperialism, and injustice. Together, we will win!”

Marilyn Bechtel/PW

Participants then filled the area’s main thoroughfare, International Boulevard, as they marched to San Antonio Park for trainings on how to cope with a raid by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and viewed an art exhibit by the Palestinian Youth Movement.

Activities began early in the morning, as protesters gathered to blockade the Alameda County Administration Building in downtown Oakland, demanding that Sheriff Gregory Ahern stop cooperating with federal immigration agents who have access to county jails. They also called for an end to yearly “Urban Shield” gatherings where local law enforcement agencies are trained in SWAT tactics and military-style weapons are displayed.

The Sheriff’s Department said at least four protesters were arrested.

Several gatherings fed into the Fruitvale rally, including a demonstration earlier in the afternoon by hotel workers who walked off the job and marched to the site of a proposed new hotel in West Oakland, where the developer has refused to promise he won’t retaliate against workers who seek to organize a union.

Several groups of high school students held their own rallies, later joining the Fruitvale gathering.

In addition to many events in San Francisco, actions took place in other Bay Area cities including San Jose, Fremont, Concord, Morgan Hill, Mountain View and Berkeley.


CONTRIBUTOR

Marilyn Bechtel
Marilyn Bechtel

Marilyn Bechtel writes for the People’s World from the San Francisco Bay Area. She joined the PW staff in 1986, and currently participates as a volunteer.

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