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Indybay FeatureRelated Categories: San Francisco | Immigrant Rights
100,000 March Through San Francisco for Immigrants Rights
An estimated 100,000 immigrants rights supporters marched down Market Street today in the largest Latino mobilization in Bay Area history. The crowd was at least 80-90% Latino, and most were under 40, sharply contrasting with the large anti-Iraq war protests that disproportionately included older whites.
Marchers came from throughout the Bay Area, and were united in believing that the event marked an historic turning point for the Latino community.
Crowd estimates will inevitably vary for an event whose marchers continued further than the eye, but after speaking to many people, the consensus was that San Francisco saw no less than 75,000 and likely more than 100,000 take to the streets today.
Many of the marchers wore shirts that had “Unidos Estamos” on top, a map of the USA in the middle, and below “Nos Quedamos”---which means “We are united and united we will stand.” On the back, the shirts read in Spanish, “A Day Without Immigrants.”
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First, a slight correction to the Spanish above: Nos quedamos means we shall remain. Quedarse is a reflexive verb. It is the first person plural.
We witnessed a moment that those of us raised to honor May Day and the Haymarket Martyrs have waited to see in the USA all our lives. As one senior said to me, if you live long enough, you will finally see a change. Today was that change. When labor moves, the earth shakes and radical fundamental change takes place. With a labor movement, we will put an end to the private profit system which mandates endless wars; we will win a national healthcare system that guarantees healthcare to all who live here from cradle to grave, paid for with our tax dollars instead of paying for war; we will have outstanding free public schools for all from age 3 through university with no insulting standardized tests; we will abolish the death penalty and prisons, we will guarantee legal abortion and all other needs and rights for women; we will have gay marriage and much more. All of these things require a strong labor movement. Today, we witnessed labor on the move, and it will have to keep moving to stop the fascist attack on all of us, of which the Sensenbrenner bill is a part.
We saw the salt of the earth, the physical labor workers who do the farm labor, restaurant work, office cleaning and all other hard, dirty jobs without which our society could not function, that were 99% of the marchers. It is sad that most of the people who work in the Financial District, along with their wealthy employers, disappeared from Market Street. I suppose we can expect that from the managerial, upper middle class types, but the workingclass office workers also disappeared. The workingclass in the offices is majority minority, with a significant African-American, Asian and Latino population. Most of the whites are middle aged. Market Street is usually very crowded at lunch time. All the businesses were open so this was clearly deliberate. They have nothing to fear but fear itself, and I guess they still have fear of the unknown.
The faces of the people, especially the men, whom I saw, were of very hardworking, poor people who had faced much adversity. It was absolutely heartbreaking to see all of them with their families, including children in strollers, making that march in a fight for their lives. They had to take the day off from work, take the children out of school and come here to march on sweltering hot Market Street to stop the fascist attack on immigrants.
As I told one young white man who complained that they do not all speak English, not only do most speak enough English to at least get along, they also know at least one other language, their native language, and furthermore, without their labor we would have no food as most farm labor is done by undocumented immigrants. My farewell statement to him was do not criticize labor unless you are willing to do their work.
KPFA reported that the strawberry fields of Monterey County were deserted as the United Farm Workers union got the 60,000 farm workers in those fields to take the day off.
Many restaurants in San Francisco were closed. My personal observation about all San Francisco restaurants is that if they are not Chinese restaurants, usually the labor is Latino. This certainly includes all the Italian restaurants in North Beach. The food is Italian style but the labor is Latino. The retail stores like Walgreen's are usualy a mix of Latino and Chinese immigrant. As we know from the recent hotel strike, most of the hotel workers are immigrants, either Latino or Asian.
The radical groups were not a fringe; they were an integral part of the parade, and of course, were among the organizers. I enjoyed seeing their red flags, all their newspapers and their amazing energy.
For a first May Day labor parade in memory, at least 60 years, it was a smashing success! Next year, it will be better. And we hope it will happen again next year and forever.