On Friday, May 1, thousands of hopeful protesters came out to the streets of downtown Los Angeles to demand living wages for workers, a comprehensive immigration reform, and justice for police brutality. The annual demonstration gathered underneath the dragons at Chinatown for a few speeches from community leaders and a quick performance from the band Jornaleros del Norte (Laborers of the North). But before the crowd began to move, leaders thanked the Asian Pacific Islander community for their support.
This was my first May Day march as a conscious participant. My first May Day was back in 2006, back when more than 500,000 people came out from the shadows to demand immigrant rights. I was only in middle school, so I didn’t know what it meant to be undocumented yet. I remember immigrants were being asked to miss work that day, not to buy anything and to let their children be absent from school to show how much of an impact undocumented people have on the economy.
This year, I arrived there with other UCLA students who were as excited as I was to join the march and have our thoughts be heard. As we chanted with the crowd, “No justice, no peace; no racist police,” I noticed the march was led with a huge flag of the United States that symbolized the commitment people of color have to the country. Without words, the flag said: “We are here to stay, this is our country too.”
The rally put a spotlight on the current halt on President Obama’s executive action on immigration, Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA). If passed in the courts, DAPA would allow thousand of undocumented immigrants who have children with legal status get work permits. Protesters carried signs that read, “Go DAPA GO,” to urge legislators for the parents’ right to work legally.
As we made our way to City Hall, we stopped at the Metropolitan Detention Center on Alameda. It was inspiring to see the prisoners waving and tapping on their windows to show their solidarity with the movement. From Ferguson to Baltimore, demonstrators showed their support for those expressing their fury with police. Law enforcement has been known to be unjust towards communities of color, so chances are that many detainees were targeted because of their appearance. In fact, African Americans combined with Latinas/os make up 58 percent of prison population, but they are only a quarter of the population nationwide. Also, black men are three times as likely to get killed by a cop than white men.
The police were not received with friendly smiles throughout the march, nor were they welcomed when we stopped at the downtown U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services building where the Department of Homeland Security agents gathered. One demonstrator carrying a United States flag looked at an agent straight in the eyes and said to him, “What are you doing here? We don’t need you guys here!” The racial tensions that have built up from the recent police murders were obvious at the march.
Our final stop was in front of City Hall where proud protesters released their last chants. The cross-community unity that took place on this day is a prime example of what a social justice movement should look like. It is imperative for all communities that face injustice to come together, advocate for one another, and reach a common goal. The closer we stand together, that harder it will be to break us.