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Annual March for Workers’ Rights Generates Solidarity

At Olympic and Broadway, on May 1st, people organized themselves with their banners before the rally started. Photo by Charlene Unzueta.

On May 1st, 2012 on Olympic and Broadway in Downtown Los Angeles, people gathered for a rally that began at 1 PM. Music played while people organized themselves behind their banners. As a participant, it was empowering to be part of a rally of diverse organizations that had come together for a general strike.

I began to come to these May Day rallies a few years ago, after learning about them from my family. It is my family that continues to pass their political knowledge and activism onto me. These events for me are great because not only do I get to spend time with my loved ones, but I also like to see other families partaking in the same events as my own.

With the elections coming up this year, May Day 2012 was a sight. It was full of signs asking for change and reform. There were also many signs reminding politicians of the promises they had made the last time they were running for a office, such as stopping the cuts on education and true immigration reform.

On this day, we were able to speak out together about a plethora of issues that included workers’ rights, queer rights, education reform, and immigrants’ rights. Because there were so many issues represented there was also a diverse group of individuals that ranged in age, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status.

While the majority of individuals that were there went to support the different causes, there were also cynics amongst the crowd. “They don’t even know why they are there…they don’t have any real demands.”

These rallies are not just for show and on the contrary, May Day has a sense of unity that prevails over any other idea or feeling.

Angelica Salas, an executive director for the Coalition for Humane Immigration Rights of Los Angeles, spoke at the rally about what she believed May Day 2012 represented. “Estamos aqui hoy porque esta mañana se llevaron a un padre de familia, esta mañana levantaron a una madre de su familia y la quitaron de su casa. . . Esto no puede seguir y por eso marchamos.”

She discussed how it is unacceptable that 400,000 people are deported every year and that we must organize and mobilize in the streets and at the polls. “Vamos a votar en Noviembre? Es por nuestras familias, nuestros hijos, para el futuro de esta nacion. A registrarnos, a votar, a crear poder, para que republicano o democratico esuche el clamor de nuestro pueblo.”

People who would normally not speak out about their complaints held signs proudly and without fear, displaying their concerns such as “Legalize my partner.”

Throughout the rally, police filled the streets, and despite the intimidating image of being surrounded by police, we were all united as one. Intimidation would not win on this day.

Did you go to May Day? How did you become involved? How did you learn about the hsitory of May Day?

May Day 2011: Where have all the hand-written signs gone?

Click to view photos from May Day 2011.

Walking down Broadway, looking for Olympic, the street is empty. The old art-deco buildings tower over us as we look for any signs of an ensuing march.

As we headed towards the intersection of Olympic and Broadway, we met with people with bright t-shirts, pens and forms for us to fill out. They were from Good Jobs LA. Marchers had shirts and carried printed signs that advertised the idea, “We Stand for Rights for All.”

On the sidewalk, there is a stack of neon-green signs stamped with “Legalize LA” in stylized font. There are three to choose from: “Legalize LA,” “Immigration Reform Now,” or a quote by JFK.

“Immigration policy should be generous; it should be fair; it should be flexible. With such a policy we can turn to the world, and to our own past, with clean hands a clear conscience.”

Street vendors are a staple of the streets of Los Angeles and May Day is a prime day for sales.  A woman selling sizzling hot dogs with jalepeños and onions; a man with a cart of oranges, making and selling fresh squeezed orange juice; carts, so many carts, selling—and later giving away–American and Mexican flags.

How is la lucha personified? A monstrous statue of liberty, alien (literally!) children, and a masked bride asking America to marry her are dressed for the march.

Walking among strangers in solidarity, yet has anything progressed? Con Obama si se puede some believe, but others are disenchanted.