Revolution #90, May 27, 2007
Los Angeles: Thousands of Immigrants and Allies March in Defiance
May 17, 2007. Thousands of protesters marched into MacArthur Park--returning to where the LAPD, on May 1st, attacked an immigration rights rally with rubber bullets and batons.
Angela Sanbrano from the Central American Resource Center (CARECEN) told the crowd, "No more! Today we’re here to reassert our right to freely assemble that was violated on May 1st."
The march began outside of Immanuel Presbyterian Church in a Latino and Korean neighborhood. The church's pastor, Frank Alton, said that for days the church had received angry and harassing phone calls, but that he was still proudly opening the doors of his church to immigrants.
The mood of the protest celebrated the courage of the thousands of immigrants who, in the face of attacks and threats, continue to fight for their rights. And new allies marched side by side with immigrants, including people from different nationalities, various interfaith religious forces and members of church congregations from throughout Los Angeles, and students from as far away as Ventura, Riverside, and Orange County.
“I’m happy to see people here from all over,” said Manuel, an immigrant from Mexico. “There are African Americans and Japanese and Americans supporting us in this cause. We come here to work and all we’re asking for is to be treated justly. These are beautiful words on this banner. [“We are Human Beings, We Demand a Better World, We Will Not Accept Slavery in any Form”] It’s true that we’re human beings, that deserve to be treated with respect and dignity.”
Maritza helped her union friends distribute candles among the crowd. Her friends are a group of Black women who work together with her in the service industry. They laughed as they struggled to pronounce "Si se puede!" in their best Spanish accent. The women made comparisons between the May Day brutality and the brutality against Black people during the Civil Rights movement. One of the women said, “We’re here to give support to our Latino brothers and sisters. We feel like our people, Black people, have been through this situation before and that’s why we should come forth and support these people here.”
On May 1st the LAPD attacked news journalists and many news crews and reporters returned to MacArthur Park to cover this protest, as well as to support the demonstration. A news anchor from Telemundo announced on his news show the evening before the demonstration that he was attending the protest as a journalist, but that more than that, he felt he needed to attend as a human being.
In the days after the May Day attack there was a lot of talk from local authorities and the police, about how now is a time for “healing” and working toward restoring the severed relationship between the people and the LAPD. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has promised a full investigation (while not mentioning prosecuting any of the officers involved.) All this is aimed at cooling things. But the anger and outrage among people have not subsided.
LAPD Chief William Bratton was on the scene, and dozens of protesters shouted him down as he talked to the media about the LAPD’s new approach to the protest. Throughout the protest people carried placards demanding that Chief William Bratton be fired and that all the brutal cops involved in the May Day beatings be prosecuted and jailed. One woman who was at MacArthur Park on May Day said, “If they think they can hide behind a badge after what they did to people, they’re wrong! We want justice!”
What the LAPD did on May 1st is what they are trained to do and will continue to do. In the days leading up to the demonstration and on the day itself the police were openly discussing their plans to infiltrate the march with undercover police agents. The newly promoted Commander Sergio Diaz, announced that there would be an undetermined number of undercover agents with the goal of identifying any “provocateurs” among the crowd. “Anyone who causes problems will be arrested,” said Diaz.
Some at the demonstration had heard about the proposals the Senate had made earlier that day for a guest worker program, temporary visas, and further militarization of the border. And some people said they felt that these measures only reinforce immigrants’ position as exploited workers. Some people also said that that giving immigrants temporary visas is like stripping the humanity away from people -- only to be seen as a class of people that will do backbreaking work without full rights in this country.
A woman from Central America said, “I’ve spent 35 years getting fucked over in garment! Do you think that’s right? We want legalization!”
There is also continued outrage at the ICE raids and the separation of families that the deportations of hundreds of people have caused across the country. A young woman from the Youth Justice Coalition said, “We’re demanding an end to the raids. I say that we’re all human beings—[it doesn’t matter] if we’re illegal or citizens.”
Many people in the demonstration spoke about the eye-opening nature of the naked brutality of the LAPD and the new proposals for immigration reform, including all the talk of immigrants being allowed to share in the “American Dream” which has really been more like the American Nightmare for the millions of exploited immigrants in this country. “We’re not criminals, we’re human beings and we want legalization and justice for the way that the police treated us [on May 1],” said a young man from Mexico.
A student from Mexico said that legalization is a just demand, but added that the problem extends beyond immigration reform. He traveled from a small town in southern Mexico’s countryside to the U.S. about five years ago. He said that for a long time he felt guilty about leaving his parents and his home. In the Spring of last year, he listened to an excerpt of Bob Avakian’s Revolution DVD, titled, “Why do people come here from all over the world?” and it made him reflect on his “choice” to leave his home. Listening to the excerpt made him think about the larger forces at work that pulled him out his hometown, across the border, and into the kitchens and factories in L.A. He was inspired to investigate this more: “We need to think about the reasons why people come here and find a solution for that. Now I know that people leave their countries because of NAFTA and Plan Puebla Panama. The government of Mexico and the interests that they represent [the United States] are causing the destruction of humanity. They’re causing irreparable damage to the Earth. We all have to think about that and find a solution for that.”
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