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Stop Arizona apartheid law

Published May 5, 2010 11:27 PM

It was a significant event that not even the big-business-owned press could ignore, hard as they wanted to do. May Day 2010 in the United States was the largest national outpouring of protests since the May Day Immigrant Uprising of 2006, when millions of people, the great majority of Latin American and Caribbean origin, took to the streets against the reactionary Sensenbrenner bill that denied full immigrant rights.

This May 1, according to CNN, an estimated 1 million people — between one-quarter and a half million in Los Angeles alone — protested in at least 70 U.S. cities against the Arizona bill, SB 1070, which creates an apartheid state by legalizing the racial profiling of immigrants and people of color. See coverage in this issue on New York and other cities.

Union Square, NYC
WW photo: Brenda Ryan

This law stipulates that the police and Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials can stop, arrest and detain anyone they “suspect” of being undocumented and eventually deport them. The law also sets into motion a 50-mile militarized zone between Arizona and the Mexican border.

Many of the protests called major attention to the national and international boycott of Arizona’s tourism, with popular signs in English and Spanish reading, “We are all Arizona” and “Todos somos Arizona.”

While the Arizona law propelled tens of thousands of veteran and new activists into motion, May Day — International Workers Day — afforded the opportunity for foreign-born and native-born workers of all ages and nationalities, documented and undocumented, to raise and connect broader issues including jobs, not racism; the right to health care, education and housing; an end to war and occupation; and much more. In the midst of a deepening worldwide capitalist economic crisis, workers and oppressed people are linking their struggles and refusing to scapegoat other workers.

Thousands march in Arizona

In Arizona and California, tens of thousands came out for full immigrant rights and against SB 1070.

About 20,000 people marched and rallied in Tucson in the largest outpouring since May Day 2006. The protest was militant, spirited and defiant. The demands for “Legalization now!” and “Repeal SB 1070 now!” dominated the speeches. Youth speakers and entertainers kept the crowd chanting and energized.

The people of Tucson and throughout Arizona support the Boycott Arizona movement. As the names of cities and organizations that expressed their solidarity with the struggle in Arizona were read, the crowd cheered. The ICE raids and apartheid-like bills did not terrorize the population into submission, but rather evoked outrage and created a movement that continues to grow. May Day in Tucson was truly celebrated by the workers and the oppressed.

Paul Teitelbaum from the Tucson May 1 Coalition told the Associated Press, “[We want] an end to the militarization of the border. We want that money spent on people’s needs, not on troops to the border.” (May 1)

The Phoenix Metro News reported that 7,000 rallied at the Arizona state capitol, while Internet sources say 10,000 took part in Phoenix’s May Day protest.

Hundreds of thousands of protestors came out strong in Los Angeles on May Day. The march included multinational Latino/a immigrant participants and non-immigrant organizations of people who felt compelled to protest the racist, anti-immigrant SB 1070. Many of the signs attacked the Arizona bill.

This year marked the first time since 2006 that there was one united march in Los Angeles.

A large portion of the signs reflected anger at attempts to further criminalize immigrant workers: “SB 1070 = Schumer plan”; “Legalization now”; “Obama, Escucha: Schumer plan = Criminalization”; “No reform — No reelection.”

The Southern California Immigration Coalition contingent, wearing red shirts and carrying red, Mexican and Honduran flags and flags from other Latin American countries, represented one of the largest groups in the united protest. SCIC includes over 40 organizations; some of the major ones are Union del Barrio, BAYAN-USA, Service Employees Local 721 Latino Caucus, Latino Congresso and the International Action Center/Bail Out the People Movement.

Two of the rally emcees were Ron Gochez of Union del Barrio and Celina Benitez of the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador. Both are steering committee members of SCIC. They made comments and led chants that made it clear that any legislation calling for criminalization was not acceptable.

John Parker from IAC/BOPM said at the main rally, “Solidarity is our most powerful weapon, and we will not let them disarm us with division, whether it be a health care bill that leaves out 14 million immigrants or a Schumer plan that creates criminalized, second-class Bracero workers. We say no to criminalization — legalization now!”

Historic Chicano Park in San Diego was the assembly site for the May Day rally, march and an angry confrontation with anti-immigrant Minutemen at the downtown federal building. Hosted by Unión del Barrio, over 2,000 people participated.

Among the rally speakers was Gloria Verdieu of the Free Mumia Coalition and the San Diego International Action Center. In a dramatic show of unity with the Latino/a community, Verdieu took the stage with a delegation of African-American community members and other activists. She told the crowd, “May Day must be a mobilization that calls for a major campaign to build Black and Brown unity as an anchor for the unity of people of color and all workers struggling for human rights and global justice. ... All workers in the U.S. — especially those who don’t need to fear the immigration Gestapo — must show the strongest solidarity. ... We must win legalization for all workers in the U.S. and reinforce the unity and solidarity among all workers.”

Other participants in the day’s events included the Aztec Drummers and Dancers, BAYAN USA, the Border Angels, the Guerrero Azteca Peace Project, the United African American Ministerial Council, Friends of Cuba, Veterans for Peace and the San Diego Coalition for Peace and Justice.

Bay Area joins protests

In the San Francisco Mission District thousands of immigrant workers, family members, community organizations and their supporters spilled out into the streets to join the national protest for immigrant rights. The marchers, who stretched for over five city blocks, chanted, yelled, sang and beat drums all the way to the Civic Center.

“We are people! We are not illegal, no!” and other chants echoed from the protesters and the crowds that gathered to cheer and sing alongside the march. A sea of humanity representing the multitude of immigrants came together to state unequivocally, “There are no borders in the workers’ struggle.”

The march was led by immigrant workers from the AFL-CIO State Labor Council, the Service Employees union, the Transport Workers union, the hotel workers union UNITE HERE, and other labor organizations. A truck held the many national flags of the Americas and carried Indigenous drummers.

At a rally held in the Civic Center, speakers condemned the recent legislation passed in Arizona. The May 1 protest was organized by the San Francisco May Day 2010 Coalition.

Judy Greenspan, John Parker, Paul Teitelbaum and Gloria Verdieu contributed to this report.

Slideshow photographers include Brenda Ryan, G. Dunkel, Bryan G. Pfeifer, Imani Henry, Greg Butterfield, Julia La Riva, Deirdre Griswold, Monica Moorehead, John Catalinotto, Liz Green, Judy Greenspan, Susan Schnur, Gloria Rubac, Lisa Reels, Jorge L., Eric Jones, Susan Massad, Joao Brandao, Jr. and Lorraine Fontana.