News

Uno de Mayo

Labor marches turn violent in Northwest

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Protests were calm and even kindly in Bellingham and Seattle, but May Day protests turned violent elsewhere in the Pacific Northwest as demonstrators in Portland, Oregon, threw smoke bombs and Molotov cocktails at police while elsewhere thousands of people peacefully marched against President Donald Trump’s immigration and labor policies.

At the White House, President Trump had proclaimed May 1 to be “Loyalty Day,” a time for Americans to reaffirm their commitment to “individual liberties, to limited government and to the inherent dignity of every human being” with Pledge of Allegiance ceremonies and a display of American flags.

Some Americans had other plans.

From New England to the Midwest to the West Coast people chanted and picketed against Trump along with the traditional May Day labor rallies. Protesters flooded streets in Chicago. At the White House gates, they demanded “Donald Trump has got to go!”

A rally in Bellingham sponsored by the Whatcom-Skagit Industrial Workers of the World ended in a picnic.

In Seattle, Mayor Ed Murray praised the calm. Seattle has in the past been the site of violent protests on May Day, as anarchists damage property after dark, when many of the main demonstrations are finished.

Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant predicted May Day is actually only the start of a “summer of resistance.”

“In my mind, when you look at history, you don’t win victories by just one protest,” the Seattle Socialist said. “May Day, May 1, today has historically been International Workers Day, and in America also a day for immigrants’ rights protests,” Sawant said. “But this year there is a special significance… in many, many cities, working people, young people, millennials are marching out against Trump’s agenda of hatred, bigotry, anti-immigrant, anti-worker policies and anti-women ideas.”

Elsewhere, protests grew more dramatic.

In Portland, police shut down a protest they said had become a riot and arrested more than two dozen people. Police in Olympia said nine people were taken into custody after several officers were injured by thrown rocks and windows were broken at businesses in Washington’s capital city.

In Oakland, California, at least four were arrested after creating a human chain to block a county building where demonstrators demanded that county law enforcement refuse to collaborate with federal immigration agents.

“It is sad to see that now being an immigrant is equivalent to almost being a criminal,” said Mary Quezada, a 58-year-old North Carolina woman who joined those marching on Washington.

She offered a pointed message to Trump: “Stop bullying immigrants.”

The demonstrations on May Day follow similar actions worldwide in which protesters from the Philippines to Paris demanded better working conditions. But the widespread protests in the United States were aimed directly at the new Republican president, who has followed aggressive anti-immigrant rhetoric on the campaign trail with aggressive action in the White House.

Trump, in his first 100 days, has intensified immigration enforcement, including executive orders for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and a ban on travelers from six predominantly Muslim countries. The government has arrested thousands of immigrants in the country illegally and threatened to withhold funding from jurisdictions that limit cooperation between local and federal immigration authorities.

In Chicago, 28-year-old Brenda Burciaga was among thousands of people who marched through the streets to push back against the new administration.

“Everyone deserves dignity,” said Burciaga, whose mother is set to be deported after living in the U.S. for about 20 years. “I hope at least they listen. We are hardworking people.”

In Shemanski Park in Portland before the violence broke out hundreds of people, including some families with children, gathered and watched dancers in bright feathered headdresses perform to the beat of drums.

Friends Marian Drake and Martin Anderson watched from a nearby park bench as they held balloons supporting the International Workers Union.

“Things are so screwed up in this country. You’ve got a city right here that’s full of homeless people and you’ve got a president… whose budget is going to cut 40 percent to the EPA and end Meals on Wheels. We don’t like those kinds of things,” Anderson said.

In cities large and small, the protests intensified throughout the day.

Teachers working without contracts opened the day by picketing outside schools in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Activists in Phoenix petitioned state legislators to support immigrant families.

In a Los Angeles park, several thousand people waved American flags and signs reading “love not hate.”

Selvin Martinez, an immigrant from Honduras with an American flag draped around his shoulders, took the day off from his job waxing casino floors to protest. “We hope to get to be respected as people, because we are not animals, we are human beings,” said Martinez, who moved to Los Angeles 14 years ago fleeing violence in his country.

The White House did not respond to requests for a response to the May Day demonstrations.

Several protesters, like 39-year-old Mario Quintero, outed themselves as being in the country illegally to help make their point.

“I’m an undocumented imigrant, so I suffer in my own experience with my family,” said Quintero at a Lansing, Michigan, rally. “That’s why I am here, to support not only myself, but my entire community.”

In Miami, Alberto and Maribel Resendiz closed their juice bar, losing an estimated revenue of $3,000, to join a rally.

“This is the day where people can see how much we contribute,” said Alberto Resendiz, who previously worked as a migrant worker in fields as far away as Michigan. “This country will crumble down without us.”

He added, “We deserve a better treatment.”

In Oakland at a later march, more than 1,000 people marched peacefully, representing labor groups along with Mexican, Vietnamese, Chinese, Filipino, and other immigrants.
While union members traditionally march on May 1 for workers’ rights around the world, the day has become a rallying point for immigrants in the United States since massive demonstrations were held on the date in 2006 against a proposed immigration enforcement bill.

In recent years, immigrant rights protests shrank as groups diverged and shifted their focus on voter registration and lobbying.

Compiled from Associated Press.

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