Massive rally in Union Square demands legalization of all immigrants
New York, May 1 -- Tens of thousands of people rallied, chanted and rocked to Hip Hop performers and other artists and orators for more than three hours in Union Square today before marching two miles to the federal buildings in downtown Manhattan. This year’s May Day action focused on combating the recently passed Arizona anti-immigrant law and demanding legalization of all undocumented workers in the U.S. and their families.
With placards, chants and through talks from the podium, participants made it clear that they also opposed the proposals made by Democratic U.S. Senator Charles Schumer for so-called immigration reform because it emphasized militarization of the border and repressive identification cards, and it delayed legalization.
Like New York City itself, the rally was extremely diverse, representing immigrant groups from all over South America and the Caribbean -- many from Mexico -- and from all over the Pacific Islands, Asia, Africa and the Middle East. There were also trade unionists, community organizers and many students and youths shouting their solidarity with the immigrants and raising their own demands for jobs, education and an end to wars.
The May Day rally was the largest in New York since 2006, when immigrants held the equivalent of a one-day national general strike to protest the Sensenbrenner Bill then raised before the U.S. Congress. The enormous outpouring at that time stopped that bill dead in its tracks.
Teresa Gutierrez, a spokesperson for the May 1 Coalition for Immigrant Rights -- the group that initiated the call for May Day in Union Square the last five years -- said, “Arizona is the home base of arch-racist Sheriff Joe Arpaio and others who falsely blame all problems of U.S. society on immigrants. These reactionaries thought they could get away with passing this repressive Arizona law, which is a threat to all immigrants, an insult to every Latino and Latina person, an assault on every person of color and an attack on all workers.
“This law has boomeranged on the racists. It ignited opposition nationally. It has aroused a new movement with a combative spirit that we all saw not only in Union Square today but also in Los Angeles, in Tucson and Phoenix in Arizona, in Texas and Chicago and in 80 cities around the United States.”
Gutierrez estimated from the platform at the end rally near the U.S. Courthouse that 25,000 people had taken part in the rally and march. By telephone, an organizer from Tucson reported on that city’s mass May Day action and one from Washington, D.C., told of 40 people arrested for civil disobedience. Gutierrez noted that the size, militancy and enthusiastic spirit of the rally and march had overshadowed other more politically timid activities, even though they were well-funded.
Toward the evening , news arrived from Jackson Heights, Queens, that police had harassed and arrested two women who were undocumented street vendors. Commenting on these arrests, Gutierrez said, “This shows that the climate of repression coming not only from Arizona but from the state and federal authorities is still harsh against our immigrant sisters and brothers. The struggle continues.”