Huge May Day rallies fueled by outrage over Arizona law

Well over 100,000 immigrants and their supporters demonstrated May 1 in more than 100 communities throughout the country, in a massive outpouring of protest fueled by outrage over Arizona’s SB 1070 which allows police to stop anyone merely on suspicion they might be undocumented.

Unions, faith groups, African American and Native American organizations and a broad range of community organizations joined with immigrants from around the world to demand just and comprehensive immigration reform. Signs and T-shirts proclaiming “Todos Somos Arizona” (“We are all Arizonans”) were a common sight.

Meanwhile, a powerful movement to boycott Arizona is developing to protest the draconian law.

The largest march was in Los Angeles, where an estimated 60,000 marchers turned out.

Angelica Salas of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles told the LA Times that five coalitions representing over 150 labor, faith and immigrant rights organizations worked with Spanish language media to build the rally.

She called the demonstration “a message to President Obama” for immigration reform and an end to 
”massive deportations,” as well as “a special message to Republicans” to stop blocking reform and cease supporting “hateful laws” in Arizona.

At City Hall, LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa expressed strong backing for immigration reform, while Roman Catholic Cardinal Roger Mahony told the crowd, “Everyone in God’s eyes is legal. We are standing with our immigrant brothers and sisters.”

In Tucson, Ariz., over 20,000 marchers – black, brown and white, young and old, immigrants and native-born – rallied at Armory Park. Among them were U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., United Farm Workers union co-founder Dolores Huerta and singer Linda Ronstadt. Sponsors included the Derechos Humanos coalition, No More Deaths, the Pima Area Labor Federation and other unions, and the Communist Party USA.

In Phoenix, Ariz., at least 4,000 joined in protests at the capitol that lasted far into the night. “Undocumented immigrants come here to work, they don’t come to live on charity,” 64-year-old Hector Ortega, a native-born U.S. citizen, told “What they are trying to do to them will also influence us. It hurts me that I would have to carry my documents with me when no one else would,” he said, adding that if he is stopped he will not cooperate.

One of the largest marches brought out some 30,000 protesters in Dallas, Texas. The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) was prominent among the demonstrators, along with local churches and religious leaders.

In Chicago, over 20,000 marched for immigrant rights and jobs, following the annual tribute to the Haymarket Martyrs sponsored by the Chicago Federation of Labor and Illinois Labor History Society. A 75-member delegation from Japan’s Zenroren Labor Federation participated in both events. The march was led by a delegation of undocumented immigrant youth, the Immigrant Youth Justice League, who have boldly “come out of the shadows.” Unions, community organizations and churches from across the metropolitan area joined in the march.

In Washington D.C., U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., an author of an immigration reform bill now before Congress, was among 35 arrested after sitting in at the White House during a protest by thousands.

Though the Los Angeles march was by far the biggest in California, thousands more protested in San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, Watsonville, Salinas and other cities and towns throughout the state.

In Sacramento, a thousand people, many with their children, gathered at the Capitol before marching to the Federal Building, carrying signs saying “Derechos para todos inmigrantes!” (rights for all immigrants), “Legalization Now,” “Stop racial profiling,” and “Boycott Arizona.”

Calls for a boycott have reverberated throughout the country. In California, state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg has called for ending existing state contracts. LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom are among elected officials expressing support, while the Oakland City Council is expected to vote on a measure May 4. The Major League Baseball players union condemned the law and some players say they wouldn’t participate in the 2011 All-Star game in Arizona.

Gail Ryall, Jim Lane, Joe Bernick and John Bachtell contributed to this article.

Photo: May Day rally in Oakland, Calif. (PW/Marilyn Bechtel)

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Marilyn Bechtel
Marilyn Bechtel

Marilyn Bechtel writes from the San Francisco Bay Area. She joined the PW staff in 1986 and currently participates as a volunteer. Marilyn Bechtel escribe desde el Área de la Bahía de San Francisco. Se unió al personal de PW en 1986 y actualmente participa como voluntaria.