Migrants inspired unity is prelude to May Day
San Diego is a border city barricaded from its Mexican sister city, Tijuana, by an ugly, metal wall. Recent days here have witnessed a much greater than usual level of activity on the part of La Migra (the U.S. Border Patrol) in the area’s poorer communities, on public transportation and at the supermarkets where Spanish speaking people shop. New immigration checkpoints have popped up on the streets of residential communities.
The unprecedented level of repression is frightening. But the huge outpouring of angry, pro-immigrant San Diegans on Feb. 18 made it clear that President Trump’s racist, anti-immigrant program will meet strong resistance here. Thousands assembled at the County Administration Building that morning and marched downtown to the Federal Building, where their numbers filled the open plaza area and packed the street in front from curb to curb. Their message to President Trump was loud and clear: Muslim people and all immigrants are welcome here!
Un Día sin Inmigrantes/A Day without Immigrants in the Philadelphia area caused many restaurants and other businesses to shut their doors on Feb. 16. A rally organized by Lucha Pro Licencias PA gathered at noon and marched around City Hall, despite cold, windy weather.
When the kitchen workers at Restaurant Bahama Breeze in the suburban King of Prussia area were fired the next morning for being absent, the Coalición Fortaleza Latina Pennsylvania urged supporters to call the business. The campaign won within hours, when the restaurant called every worker to tell them that they were rehired and would also be paid for the day off.
Many motorists on busy East Jefferson Avenue near downtown Detroit honked their horns in support on Feb. 17 as they passed a lively demonstration of 150 people on the sidewalk in front of an Immigration and Customs Enforcement building. The protest received wide coverage in the big-business-owned media.
The newly formed Michigan People’s Defense Network called the action in solidarity with immigrants who are being targeted, banned, scapegoated, raided, rounded up and deported across the U.S. An MPDN statement noted, “The attacks on immigrants are intended to divide the working class and distract us from identifying the real threat and our common enemy: hate groups, the corporations and the banks.” The network is a multinational and intergenerational organization founded to counter the racist and neofascist policies of Trump and his right-wing supporters. For more information, please like the group at facebook.com/MichiganPeoplesDefenseNetwork/.
Tens of thousands on Feb. 13 joined the Día sin Latinos, Inmigrantes y Refugiados/Strike Against Clarke rally and march to stop Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke from ordering deputies to act as Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents under Section 287(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. Protesters also demanded an immediate end to raids and deportations, to any Muslim or refugee bans, to walls between the U.S. and Mexico and to attacks on worker rights. The protest was organized by Voces de la Frontera.
“We have to remember to stay strong, not fear,” said Gutiérrez Ayala. “And what else can we do? Just sit there? We’re not going to take it. We’re going to organize as best as we can as a family and a community.”
Participants on Feb. 13 came to Milwaukee from at least 25 cities around the state for what Voces called a daylong strike. Many Latinx workers from business sectors such as the dairy industry, restaurants and meat packing in Wisconsin stayed away from work or joined the actions in Milwaukee. Thousands of students, including many members of Youth Empowered in the Struggle, also joined the protest, as did numerous labor-community supporters from unions, the Muslim community and others.
Beginning at the offices of Voces on the southside of Milwaukee, the 50,000 protesters marched to the Milwaukee County Courthouse in a militant display of people’s power.
“Following Monday’s ‘Day Without Latinos, Immigrants, and Refugees in Wisconsin,’ we are witnessing a spontaneous groundswell of immigrant workers, small business owners and our supporters taking similar bold action to demand an end to Trump’s deportation raids,” said Christine Neumann-Ortiz, executive director of Voces de la Frontera on Feb. 16.
Added Neumann-Ortiz: “We applaud the leadership of immigrant workers and business owners around the country in using their economic power, and we call on community organizations to follow their lead. We invite organizations and the public to join us in coordinated, escalated actions nationwide leading up to a mass general strike on May 1. Monday, May 1, 2017, must be a national Day Without Latinos, Immigrants, and Refugees to demand Trump rescind all of his executive orders on immigration.” To support and for more information, visit facebook.com/VocesdelaFronteraWI and vdlf.org.
Kris Hamel, Bob McCubbin, Joe Piette and the Workers World Wisconsin bureau contributed to this report.