Workers’ rights take center stage

Demonstrators march down Mission Street holding flags from many countries sewn together. Thousands joined the May 1 International Workers Day rally. PHOTO BY RAMSEY EL-QARE

ABOVE: Invited performer Yeye Suarez marches on Mission Street among the crowd for International Workers Day. PHOTO BY RAMSEY EL-QARE

Essie Harris
The Guardsman

More than 2,000 people marched from 24th and Mission street to Civic Center Plaza to push for migrant workers’ rights on May Day, known internationally as a day for workers’ rights.

“We recognize that so many students at City College are immigrants,” Said Alissa Messer, president of the American Federation for Teachers. “We are here to represent them.”

City College ESL teachers Allan Fisher, Jim McKinney and Shawn Robinson joined Messer in the march.

While May Day is known as International Workers Day, the United States stopped acknowledging it in 1958 and began calling it Loyalty Day when it was perceived to be an entity of the Communist party. Regardless, people from around the nation gather annually on May 1, in recognition of labor rights.

Industrial Workers of the World was among the various organizations that rallied for comprehensive immigration reform as well as the DREAM Act, which allows undocumented youths a chance for legal residency through higher education or military service.

Antoinette Marquez, Buena Vista Elementary teacher, chants for workers’ rights during the May Day march. PHOTO BY RAMSEY EL-QARE

A crowd of around 500 people gathered near the 24th Street BART station at noon. Officer D. Woodward, a City College alumnus, estimated the crowd to have grown to 2,000 people by 1 p.m.

“So far everything is very orderly, I don’t expect any problems,” Woodward said. “This is generally a very good event.”

As the march approached Civic Center Plaza at 2:30 p.m., protesters were greeted by roughly 100 anti-immigration “patriots,” protected by police barricades and shielded by dozens of police officers. They yelled, “Go home! Secure our borders! No sanctuary city!” to the workers’ rights demonstrators.

“Everything over there is communism,” said Dave Swan, a member of the patriot contingency. “What happened to earning an honest wage and doing the work to support your family? None of them are doing that and they expect our government to support them.”

In response to the opposition, an eclectic group of various immigrants, residents, citizens and anarchists chanted, “Stop using ignorance to justify your bigotry! Go back to Arizona!”

Most of the May Day protesters found the patriots’ argument to be a joke and laughed at their signs, which said things like “May is for Mothers’ Day and Memorial Day, not Mexicali or Moscow.”

“They are obviously not from San Francisco,” said Claudio Naleila. “We are a very open city, they can do this somewhere else but here it is out of place.”


The Guardsman