Activism Labor Rights

Thousands Turn Out for May Day Protests

On Monday, tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets in cities and towns across America to advocate for workers’ and immigrants’ rights in an annual protest known as May Day. This year the crowds were larger than average, a testament to the fear, anxiety and anger that many feel towards the new President’s mass deportation policies and more.

“Trump has pitted the U.S. working class against migrant workers and refugees, and so we must strive to create bridges, not bans or walls, to connect our struggles together,” wrote International Migrants Alliance.

In Grand Rapids, Michigan, 4,000 people turned out, as businesses closed either out of solidarity or because there were not enough workers. In Homestead, Florida, 1,000 immigrant farmworkers marched on City Hall, despite fears that they would be punished the next day by employers. Near Minneapolis, 300 people turned out to protest oppressive conditions for janitorial staffs that clean some of the area’s major retailers.

In Austin, Texas, protesters held a sit-in in Governor’s Abbott’s office to protest a bill that would punish sanctuary cities that refuse to comply with Trump’s immigration orders. In San Francisco, advocates blocked the street in front of the office for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

The targeting of ICE and defending sanctuary cities is purposeful and timely. Just last week, a District Court judge temporarily blocked Trump’s executive order threatening to pull all federal funding from sanctuary cities that do not comply with the administration’s mass deportation agenda. A report by ICE found that of the 168 counties where most of the 11 million undocumented immigrants live, 69 have declined the administration’s instructions to detain people based on immigration status, while 99 counties have accepted the federal government’s order.

May Day began in the United States in the late nineteenth century when workers were suffering long hours in grueling conditions and recognized the need for a change. They saw that they were barely able to survive while making their employers very wealthy. On May 1, 1886, more than 300,000 workers in 13,000 businesses across the country walked off the job, demanding an 8 hour workday.

Media Resources: New York Times 5/1/17; Industrial Workers of the World, 1993; Feminist Majority Foundation 4/26/17

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