May 1st 2003, Los Angeles: Immigrants Take the Streets

Revolutionary Worker #1198, May 11, 2003, posted at

Six o'clock approached and thousands of immigrants poured out of L.A.'s downtown buildings . Many of them were garment workers just finishing their shifts in the sweatshop capital of the U.S. Some had spent the day cleaning overgrown buildings. And others were on their way home after washing dishes and clearing tables at fancy restaurants. But as they walked to their bus stops, they weren't met by the same smog-ridden traffic. Instead they were greeted by more than 6,000 people converged at the tip of downtown to celebrate International Workers Day.

Garment workers, Aztec dancers, punk youth, revolutionary communists, unions, antiwar activists, and thousands more immigrant proletarians encouraged the crowds of people that lined Broadway St. to join the demonstration and say "Stop immigrant bashing!", "No to War!, Yes to Jobs!", and "Legalization Now!"

"I didn't know about the march today. I had just come to downtown to hang out, but I'm lucky to participate in this march," said a Mexican immigrant who was forced to cross "illegally" through the Mexicali canal. "We don't have any other choice. Our government makes us leave our homeland, to come here to be exploited like cheap labor. Globalization, or what they call modernization, is total imperialism."

Immigrants from Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, and all of Latin America marched to the beat of Korean drummers. The colorful garb of two Nigerian brothers contrasted beautifully with the colorful hair of a group of punk youth from Mexico. Landless campesinos from Veracruz and Guerrero, Mexico marched among Chicano students from USC, UCLA, Cal State Northridge, and other L.A. colleges and high schools. Bright blue flags with the globe symbol, peace flags, red flags, black flags, and the flags of different countries flew high above the crowd. There were three significant youth contingents organized by the RCYB, Not In Our Name and the Blue Triangle Network.

People were proud to be out marching and chanting along with others all around the world. Many commented that it's ironic that May 1st was initiated by the struggle for the eight- hour day in the U.S., yet it's not officially acknowledged here.

A young girl held a sign with a peace sign on it as her mother smiled at a contingent of more than 100 garment workers wearing orange shirts that read "Legalize L.A."

The woman was proud to be out in the streets celebrating May 1st and protesting the escalating war on immigrants. "This is our day. It's the day for all the people who break their back to earn their bread for the day. We have to struggle together, united."

She has lived without papers in the U.S. for 10 years after being forced out of Peru by economic crisis. "Some people tell me, `Well, if you don't like it why are you here?' I tell them that all the natural resources that exist in our countries are brought over to the U.S. We are here because the U.S. has robbed our countries of the best resources they have."

She compared all the people protesting on May 1st as being part of a worldwide family. "The problem of one member of our family is the problem of the entire family. That's why we need to be out here protesting and that's why we need to conquer our rights here on the streets."

"We need to align ourselves with all the movements and work together. We have a lot in common to fight for," said an organizer who works among the Korean community in L.A. He's concerned about the increasing repression on immigrants by the government, especially the preemptive detention of people for "crimes they might commit," not crimes they have actually committed. "In the Korean community there are a lot of immigrants. There are Korean immigrants who are being arrested in INS raids. There are a number who have been suddenly arrested and deported back to Korea. These deportations have been made in conjunction with the LAPD. Homes have been raided at night in Koreatown. As you can see these issues are not only specific to one community, but to all immigrants."

There was spirited determination among the people at the demonstration. Many students commented on how much strength it gave them to see the mix of people marching on this day. An organizer for Wise- Up!, the youth group of CHIRLA (Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles), said, "I feel strong when I know that around the world this is happening too. I feel really motivated when I see a lot of people from different races and classes coming out to support this. It's really powerful!"

As the crowd approached the stage at the end of the march, Los Jornaleros del Norte began a set of songs norteño-style celebrating the struggles of the people. The protesters danced around the crowd with a banner that read, "Stop Immigrant Bashing!" Others waved signs that read "Legalization Now" in English, Spanish, Korean, and Tagalog.

The event sponsored by MIWON (The Multi-ethnic Immigrants Workers Organizing Network) invited organizers from CHIRLA, the Association of Filipino Workers, the Garment Worker Center, Not in Our Name, the Blue Triangle Network, A.N.S.W.E.R., the Coalition for World Peace, among others to speak.

Travis Morales, a supporter of the Revolutionary Communist Party and an activist in La Resistencia, spoke to the crowd and sent revolutionary greetings to all those marching in the streets of countries like Mexico and Germany and to those fighting People's Wars from the mountains of Nepal to the jungles in the Philippines.

He spoke about the Blue Triangle Network and intensifying the war on immigrants that have reached new heights after September 11 with round-ups of Muslim and South Asian immigrants.

"We're faced with one of the greatest challenges of our lives now, after September 11. The government is intensifying its repression to heights we haven't seen in our lifetimes. They are attacking Muslims and South Asians by arresting and disappearing them. They have detained people without charges and held them in secret jails. Military tribunals have the authority of sentencing people to death. The law gives John Ashcroft the authority to label any immigrant a terrorist and imprison them without charges or appeal.

"The government is trying to divide and conquer us by calling some of us terrorists and others of us criminals for crossing the border `illegally' to survive. Wear a blue triangle with the names of immigrants who have disappeared as a way to show and organize solidarity. Stop the repression against Muslims and South Asians! Stop the police state! We are human beings, we demand a better world! We will not accept slavery in any form!"

One young student organizer with Not in Our Name announced the launching of a new campaign to free high school and college campuses of military recruiters. The crowd welcomed the announcement with cheers and applause.

"The students that have taken up Not in Our Name ask for solidarity with all those who have been attacked by the policies of our government and its military industry. We will not allow that this administration use our generation as weapons in their search for oil and the domination of other nations.

"We will not allow this administration to use the events of September 11 as a pretext to wage a new offensive on the well-deserved rights of immigrants and workers.

"As a part of this new movement of resistance, the youth and students of Not in Our Name have taken up the struggle to free our high school and college campuses from military recruiters. This is the goal of our new campaign."

A domestic worker speaking on behalf of CHIRLA opened her speech by saying, "Stop the round-ups and deportations!"

She powerfully expressed the sentiments of the crowd when she said, "We have the obligation and responsibility to selflessly fight for our rights. We declare that we are against this war. For many the war in Iraq is over. But for many it has just begun. It's begun for the people who lost their loved ones and for the mutilated children who lost their parents. For them the nightmare of war has just begun."

Her voice grew stronger as she shouted, "We have to be brave and say NO and we have to say BASTA!"

The crowd cheered as she chanted, "Aquí estamos y no nos vamos! Si nos hachan nos regresamos!" (We are here and we're not going anywhere! If they kick us out, we'll come right back!)

This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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