May Day: Resisting All Things Trump

By EGP & City News Service

A sea of humanity moved through the streets of downtown Los Angeles Monday for the annual May Day march, with organizers and participants spurred by a distaste for the presidential policies of Donald Trump.

Thousands of people gathered in MacArthur Park for the march dubbed “Resist Los Angeles,” designed to be a show of “resistance, unity and defiance” against such White House policies as ramped-up enforcement of immigration laws and an effort to build a massive border wall.

Various organizations that marched separately in the past joined forces this year, uniting under the banner “May Day Coalition of Los Angeles” and organizing the march from MacArthur Park to Los Angeles City Hall.

It marks the first time in more than 10 years there has been such unity among organizers of May Day marches. Organizers predicted that more than 100,000 people would participate in the “Resist Los Angeles” event, but the crowd fell well short of that goal.

Los Angeles police did not give an official crowd estimate, but authorities told reporters at the scene they were estimating around 15,000 participants.

“This is probably five times larger than last year, but it’s not as big as 2006. It is definitely 30,000 to 40,000 people, I heard,” Stuart Kwoh, executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Los Angeles, told City News Service.

(EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

(EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Kwoh, who also addressed the crowd from a large stage that was erected on the Spring Street steps of City Hall, tied the lessons of the Los Angeles riots — which broke out 25 years ago Saturday — to Trump’s attempts to strong-arm local police forces into cooperating with federal immigration laws by threatening to cut off federal funding to so-called “sanctuary cities.”

“In 25 years we have learned that the police cannot be an occupying military force. They have to have the trust of the community. And they cannot have the trust of the community if they are an occupying deportation force either,” Kwoh told CNS.

UCLA student and Native American activist Shannon Rivers, who is also a leader of the movement pushing the city to divest its money from Wells Fargo due to its support of the Dakota Access pipeline, said various issues brought people to the march.

“There’s all kinds of different issues. Migrant issues, the freedom and right to mobility. People have a human right to be mobile,” Rivers told CNS.

“We have gay-transgender issues, we have LGBT issues. We have inequality. Those are basic structural things we have to change. I don’t know if we can change those things in our current system. We are so xenophobic.”

Along list of speakers who addressed the crowd, including Alex Caputo-Pearl, president of United Teachers Los Angeles; Rusty Hicks, executive secretary and treasurer of the L.A. County Federation of Labor; and Mayor Eric Garcetti.

“We (teachers) will stand with this movement. We will stand with you for civil rights, for educational justice and this movement is the most important movement in the United States and the teachers are with you,” Caputo-Pearl told the crowd.

Juan Jose Gutierrez, national coordinator of the Full Rights for Immigrants Coalition, said the march would send a message to the Trump administration that “our just struggle for comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship is here to stay until we win it.”

(EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

(EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, a candidate for governor, was among those taking part in the march.

“This year you’re going to see an unprecedented number of people here in Los Angeles, primarily because of what’s going on with Trump and his administration — the ban, the wall, the talk of deporting 11 million people.

Nobody’s ever done that anywhere,” he told KCAL9. “I think for all of those reasons you’re going to see an outpouring of people today.”

While many did respond to organization requests “to miss work, not take their children to school, shop or operate their businesses,” organizers speculated fear and the work day timing were among the reasons for the lower than anticipated turnout. Protest fatigue was another.

“Monday is a work day so most people are out,” Emiliana Guereca, co-executive director for the Women’s March Los Angeles said via email.

“I do think marcher fatigue has set in,” she said, adding “there is too much at stake to lose momentum … “There have been dozens of marches, there are only so many one can attend,” Guereca said.

Recent immigration raids have left many undocumented immigrants afraid to be out in public, and even more worried that their public protests could lead to being targeted for deportation.

“We were not sure what to expect because of the immense threats that currently face our communities,” said Elizabeth Espinoza with the UCLA Labor Center. She said the Center has seen a “greater interest in people participating in civic engagement activities, including massive protests” since Trump’s inauguration, noting that 30,000 people turned out on a weekday and that over 100 organizations had endorsed the march.

While the “Resist Los Angeles” event was advertised as a unity march, a separate late-afternoon march was held in Boyle Heights, beginning at Cesar Chavez Avenue and Evergreen Street and ending at Mariachi Plaza at First and Boyle streets. Another protest march was held in front of La Puente City Hall.

Meanwhile, about 100 Trump supporters stood in front of the downtown Federal Building, chanting “Put America first” and “USA,” while some carried U.S. flags and signs with messages such as “Repeal Obamacare” and “Trump — Make America Great Again!” Led by a phalanx of Los Angeles police officers, the Trump group marched from the Federal Building to LAPD headquarters.

Jo Reitkopp, chair of event organizer “Make California Great AgainmInc.,” said Trump supporters wanted to “step up and stand for our country and its Constitution … for which millions of USA military men and women have lost their lives.”

Police set up a skirmish line to separate the pro- and anti-Trump forces in the Civic Center area. Both sides shouted back and forth, often using profanities, but there were no reports of any physical confrontations.

Building a movement of resistance is difficult, noted Hugo Romero with the UCLA Labor Center in an email Wednesday. “But it must be done if we want to thrive for the next four years and beyond.”

EGP staff writer Stacey Arevalo contributed to this story.

 

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May 4, 2017  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.

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