Immigrants Rally in Fresno on International Workers Day
By Mike Rhodes
The May 1, 2006 immigrant rights rally in Fresno was the largest political rally in Fresno’s history, being larger than the second largest event which was held just last month. Police estimated the May Day rally at 14-15,000 persons and the April 10 march had about 10,000. On May 1, immigrant rights activists arrived several hours early at City Hall and when their numbers reached 400 - 500 they started impromptu marches that even the event organizers were not prepared for. One march broke out of the confined area the police had set up for the rally and went around the block. The police jumped on their horses, bicycles, motorcycles, and cars and took off after the renegade marchers. With several helicopters over head and the police in fast pursuit, the marchers did not go far. They went around the block and returned to city hall.
By the time the rally was officially under way there were at least 10,000 people in front of City Hall. All traffic had been diverted from the area and more people were struggling to get as close as they could, so they could hear the music and speakers. Wave upon wave of people arrived - families with children, high school students, and men and women coming from work. The music and speakers started at 5:30 PM.
The rally was supported by many students boycotting school. The Fresno Unified School District (FUSD), the largest school district in this area, reported 15,375 students did not attend school on Monday. That is about twice as many absences as usual. Student led walkouts, which started on March 27 to protest HR 4437, resulted in hundreds of detentions for what authorities defined as truancy. Monday’s school boycott, in which thousands of (FUSD) students participated, resulted in only30 students picked up for truancy.
While the Fresno Police Department had a substantial presence at Monday’s march there were no arrests. There was also no organized opposition.
Leonel Flores, one of the organizers of the rally, welcomed the crowd and was followed by several local musicians and speakers. The stage was set on the second story of City Hall. Noticeably missing from the lineup of speakers were elected officials. Instead, the organizers invited grassroots activists like the Rev. Floyd Harris of the National Action Network and Rufino Domínguez Santos of Frente Indígena Oaxaqueño Binacional (FIOB) who talked about the importance of supporting immigrant rights and the significance of International Workers Day.