Immigrant Workers Lead Thousands in NYC May Day Protests: “Without Our Labor, the City Cannot Move”
Around the world, millions of workers took to the streets Monday for May Day, also known as International Workers’ Day. In the United States, the marches were led by immigrant workers and their allies, drawing comparisons to the massive May Day 2006 marches when millions of immigrants protested nationwide. In California, tens of thousands of people marched in the Bay Area, as immigrant workers refused to go to work and students walked out of class. In Oakland, four activists were arrested after chaining themselves together to blockade the entrance to the Alameda County Administration Building. In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, more than 30,000 people marched to demand the governor fire Milwaukee County Sheriff Dave Clarke, block anti-immigrant legislation and return driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants. At least 140 businesses were shut down across Milwaukee. We air highlights from May Day protests in New York, including the voices of striking workers at B&H Video.
AMY GOODMAN: Around the world, millions of workers took to the streets Monday for May Day, also known as International Workers’ Day. In the United States, the marches were led by immigrant workers and their allies, drawing comparisons to the massive May Day 2006, when millions of immigrants protested nationwide. A series of protests were held in New York. The first of the day’s protests was a picket line outside B&H Photo Video, the nation’s largest independent retailer of photo and video equipment. Hundreds of B&H workers staged a one-day strike to oppose a plan to relocate more than 300 jobs from Brooklyn to New Jersey. Democracy Now!’s Charina Nadura, John Hamilton and Andre Lewis filed this report.
PROTESTERS: B&H is going down! New York is a union town!
ARMANDO GIRÓN: [translated] My name is Armando Girón, and I’ve been working at B&H for nine years now. We are very concerned, because the company wants to move to New Jersey, and the majority of my co-workers and I live here in New York—in the Bronx, Queens and in Brooklyn.
RAMÓN SERRANO: [translated] We are fighting here to stop the company from moving, because if they do so, we, more than 300 employees, will be put out on the streets. They are planning to move to a place far, far away, where there is no transportation.
HÉCTOR FIGUEROA: I’m Héctor Figueroa, president of Local 32BJ. Here is the thing. Today is May 1st. And we all know that immigrant rights are worker rights. No more deportations! No more breaking families! We are here, and we are going to stay, are going to fight, because we work really hard! We feed the American public. We take care of their children. We clean their offices. We tend to their seniors. We are the ones who are making America strong! And we are here to stay!
PROTESTER: What do we want?
PROTESTER: When do we want it?
PROTESTER: What do we want?
PROTESTER: When do we want it?
PROTESTER: If we don’t get it?
PROTESTERS: Shut it down!
PROTESTER: If we don’t get it?
PROTESTERS: Shut it down!
XIMENA BUSTAMANTE: My name is a Ximena Bustamante. I am from International Women’s Strike. We are striking to reclaim the rights of all workers, but, in particular, of immigrant workers. And we are striking to make very clear that this city moves because of immigrant labor, particularly because of women’s immigrant labor. We believe that it’s very necessary to show everyone that without their labor, this city cannot move.
ORGANIZER: So when we march today, we march, and we protect one another. We keep one another safe. This is not a permitted march.
ANGELINA CÁCERES: [translated] My name is Angelina Cáceres, and I work at the Golden Steps cooperative, a group of immigrant women trying to make their businesses thrive and, at the same time, trying to help the country’s economy. We are a group of women fighting to make a living, to get our families moving forward.
AGUNDA OKEYO: Hi. My name is Agunda Okeyo. I’m a native New Yorker, originally from Kenya. I’m an immigrant. I’m an activist, an organizer, and I’m coming here with my friends, who—we’ve co-founded a campaign called Hater Free NYC. It’s a localized, creative action boycott targeting the current Trump administration, including the Cabinet. Think of this as a day where people can come together and recognize the history of America in a more honest sense and the fact that workers’ rights are in everyone’s interest.
PROTESTER: All right, NYU! Yeah!
ALEJANDRO OLIVARES: [translated] My name is Alejandro Oliveras. My organization is Brandworkers. I want to send a message to Donald Trump. We come here to work. We are good people and not criminals, as he says. I think that that is not true. And this country is a country of immigrants, built by immigrants with their work and sacrifice. I hope that his administration makes changes, because the current situation is unfair for us immigrants.
PROTESTERS: The people, united, will never be defeated! The people, united, will never be defeated!
ANH TRAN: My name is Anh Tran. I teach at Baruch College. I’m here at May Day supporting CUNY adjuncts. Adjuncts are part-time workers in they CUNY system. We’re faculty who teach—it actually could be full-time teaching, but we get paid as part-time workers. And so, we are severely exploited in terms of not being able to know whether we’ll have a job from semester to semester. You can see how impossible it is to plan, you know, paying your rent, if you don’t know whether you’re going to have a job the next semester.
NAWSHIN ISLAM: My name is Nawshin. I’m here with DRUM. My message to Donald Trump: Well, you have had privilege your whole life. You’ve had so many privileges that we don’t have, and you judge us from such a high horse. First of all, get off your high horse. Talk to me standing at the same level as me. See where I’ve been. Walk a mile in my shoes. And then you can tell me what to do. Then you can tell me where my home is, because this is my home, and you’re not taking me out of here.
AMY GOODMAN: Voices from the May Day protests in New York. Special thanks to Democracy Now!’s Charina Nadura, John Hamilton, Andre Lewis, Ariel Boone, Rubén Gómez García.
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May Day Protests Held at NC State Capitol as GOP Lawmakers Push Bill Defunding “Sanctuary Cities”
organizer with the Triangle People’s Assembly, which helped organize the May Day rallies in Raleigh and Durham. He was previously with the Farm Labor Organizing Committee, a union of migrant farm workers fighting for fair wages and better working and living conditions.
policy director of the ACLU of North Carolina.
In Raleigh, North Carolina, more than 100 people braved the rain to take part in a May Day rally outside the state Capitol to protest a series of proposed anti-worker and anti-immigrant bills. Last week, the Senate passed a bill to strip funding for any city that does not enforce federal immigration law. We speak to Raul Jimenez of the Triangle People’s Assembly and Sarah Gillooly of the ACLU of North Carolina.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, meanwhile, here in North Carolina, more than a hundred people braved the rain to take part in a May Day rally outside the state Capitol in Raleigh to protest a series of proposed anti-worker, anti-immigrant bills. We’re joined now by two guests. Raul Jimenez is an organizer with the Triangle People’s Assembly, which helped organize the May Day rallies. And Sarah Gillooly is the policy director of the ACLU of North Carolina.
We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Raul, let’s begin with you. Talk about why you were out there yesterday on May Day, your major concerns here in North Carolina.
RAUL JIMENEZ: So, I was out there because there’s a lot of attacks on immigrants and a lot of attacks on workers, at the NC Legislature and, you know, on the national level. You know, you have at the Legislature bills like HB 113 and bills like SB 145.
AMY GOODMAN: Explain these.
RAUL JIMENEZ: So, HB 113 is a bill that would basically create a process to create penalties for local governments that don’t comply with immigration laws. So that would mean that that would put an end to sanctuary cities. That means that it would also—this bill would also make it so that local law enforcement can’t use organization IDs, which are IDs given by organizations, like nonprofits, to undocumented immigrants. So, that means that all undocumented immigrants will also be afraid to call 911 or to, you know, call the police in case there’s a crime, or even—
AMY GOODMAN: And when people are afraid to call the police when they fear there’s a crime, that endangers everyone.
RAUL JIMENEZ: Yes, that’s correct. Because, I mean, somebody breaks into your house, so you know there’s a robber around. You can’t call the police because you’re afraid you’re going to be deported or the law enforcement is going to deport you or put you through the process of ICE. So, you have that.
Then you have [Senate] Bill 145, which basically forces the Department of Public Safety to enter into a 287(g) agreement. And 287(g) is a law that passed quite a while back, that basically gives local law enforcement the right to act as immigration officers. So, like in Wayne County, if you’re pulled over or you’re arrested, your record—the police runs through your records and immigration system. So, that—
AMY GOODMAN: Sarah Gillooly, can you talk about taking on these laws at the ACLU?
SARAH GILLOOLY: Yeah. So, the ACLU of North Carolina has been fighting these bills in the North Carolina Legislature, along with our allies and partners in the immigrant rights community. As Raul was saying, Senate Bill 145 is incredibly dangerous. Not only does it create the only statewide 287(g) in the country, turning all Highway Patrol officers potentially into immigration enforcement officers—
AMY GOODMAN: And how do they do that?
SARAH GILLOOLY: Through entering into an agreement with the federal government. This is the 287(g). This is an arrangement with the federal government. And it would effectively create Highway Patrol officers who are also acting as federal immigration agents.
AMY GOODMAN: So they would be checking your driver’s license and also figure out if you’re undocumented or not?
SARAH GILLOOLY: It’s hard to know exactly what they would be doing under that arrangement. But certainly the intent of that—those programs is to make it such that Highway Patrol officers could be detaining people who are undocumented and transporting them into ICE custody.
AMY GOODMAN: Are there sanctuary cities in North Carolina?
SARAH GILLOOLY: Raul, do you want to answer that?
RAUL JIMENEZ: As far as I know, there is—there are none, actually, at the moment. I think after last year, if I remember correctly, there was sort of a ban on sanctuary cities in the state of North Carolina, and so a lot of those went away. So, as far as I know, there’s none.
SARAH GILLOOLY: Yeah, there are none. Sanctuary cities are banned in North Carolina. They have been for over a year now. And this new law goes a step further and creates a process by which citizens can anonymously report their local government or their law enforcement agency as not enforcing immigration law, and then would create financial penalties, withhold tax revenue from any city or law enforcement agency that doesn’t enforce federal immigration law.
AMY GOODMAN: And these are all in effect?
SARAH GILLOOLY: They are—these laws are pending in the North Carolina Legislature.
AMY GOODMAN: Raul Jimenez, yesterday was International Workers’ Day, May Day.
RAUL JIMENEZ: Yes, mm-hmm.
AMY GOODMAN: How are workers treated? What were your main concerns?
RAUL JIMENEZ: So, as somebody who comes from an immigrant background—my dad worked in the fields, I worked in the fields—the treatment is horrible, when you talk about immigrant workers.
AMY GOODMAN: Which fields?
RAUL JIMENEZ: So, North Carolina tobacco fields, sweet potato fields. As a farm worker, you know, we were treated bad. And all farm workers across North Carolina, they live in deplorable housing. You’re talking about housing that has, you know, bed bugs and rats, not even sometimes mattresses to sleep in, holes in the wall. Their conditions are horrible, working 13, 14 hours a day in the heat in the summer, which is when the tobacco is fully grown and it needs to be harvested. And not only that, they’re also not paid sometimes the minimum wage. Sometimes workers work for $6 an hour in the heat, enough in—they do this because they need to support their families in Mexico. They suffer through the exploitation, they suffer through the oppression, because they need the $6 an hour, which is ridiculous, because the minimum wage federally is $7.25, and a lot of workers are not getting that.
AMY GOODMAN: And if they complain, they’re concerned about being deported?
RAUL JIMENEZ: Correct, yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: What about deportations and detentions right now under the Trump administration? I mean, President Obama came to be known as, even by his immigrant rights allies, as the “deporter-in-chief.” He oversaw the deportations of millions of immigrants.
RAUL JIMENEZ: Yes, he did. He certainly did. We don’t really applaud Obama for a lot when it comes to, you know, immigrants, and, I mean, when it comes to a lot of things. But since Trump’s presidency, there have been a lot of deportations, a lot of people being sent to the detention centers. I couldn’t tell you a number, but everywhere on the news, on Facebook, everywhere you see, people are getting detained, people are getting deported, families are being separated.
AMY GOODMAN: You’re setting up Know Your Rights seminars around the state?
RAUL JIMENEZ: Yes. There are a lot of those going on around the state, mostly because, unfortunately, a lot of people get pulled over or go into detention centers without knowing exactly what to do. Unfortunately, a lot of people will go into a detention center and sign whatever the detention officer gives them, because they don’t know what they’re reading or they don’t know what they’re supposed to do. So, we want people to know their rights. We want people to know—
AMY GOODMAN: What are their rights?
RAUL JIMENEZ: So, their rights, right now, are basically to remain silent, to ask for a lawyer, if they need one. Well, they’re obviously needing one if they’re in an ICE detention center. But they also have a right to appeal any immigration—what do you call it?
AMY GOODMAN: When they’re held.
RAUL JIMENEZ: When they’re held, yes. When they’re held, they have a right to appeal and to get—have a stay, so that way they’re not in the detention center the whole time and can fight their case, because a lot of these people are normal people, like us. They’re not criminals, you know. And I think that’s one of the things Trump has done really well, is criminalize the immigrants, criminalize them and put fear in them. And basically, their rights is to not be treated as a criminal.
AMY GOODMAN: And as a lawyer, Sarah, what you tell people when they’re picked up, in terms of what their rights are, and in their—when they’re in an ICE detention facility?
SARAH GILLOOLY: Yeah, I’m not an immigration attorney, but certainly the ACLU has—is excited by the Know Your Rights events that are happening around the state, and supporting them and making sure that people, whether they’re undocumented or documented, understand that they have the right to remain silent, that they have the right to appeal, that they have the right to request an attorney, although that doesn’t mean an attorney necessarily will be provided to individuals.
And I think it’s important to note that at the same time that these rallies were happening in North Carolina, these protests on May Day, the North Carolina General Assembly has been debating two proposals to chill those kinds of protests, to scare people away from protesting in North Carolina. One of those bills, that was passed in the House last week, would remove civil liability for any driver who hits a protester in the street during a protest. Another bill would have created the new crime of economic terrorism. It would have been a new felony, that if you were arrested during a protest and your protest caused a business to lose more than $1,000 of business because you were, you know, blocking the entryway or in the street, that you would be charged with a new felony of, quote, “economic terrorism.” More than 1,700 North Carolinians spoke out against that bill, and we defeated it. But the purpose of these bills is very clear. It’s to prevent May Day protest. It’s to prevent the Charlotte Uprising. It’s to prevent North Carolinians. It’s to—
AMY GOODMAN: Explain the Charlotte Uprising.
SARAH GILLOOLY: Yeah. Back in September of 2016, there was a fatal police shooting of a man named Keith Scott in Charlotte, North Carolina. And people in Charlotte poured into the streets to protest, to exercise their First Amendment rights, to express their outrage. And streets were blocked during those protests. And where appropriate, certainly, people were detained, when they were violating public safety. But this new bill would create this crime of terrorism for people who are protesting in the street. And that’s really about scaring people away from protesting.
AMY GOODMAN: Are you nervous, Raul? We’ve been going around the country. We were just in Vermont, where we saw Zully Palacios and Kike Balcazar. They were two immigrants’ rights activists who work with Migrant Justice in Burlington. They were arrested by ICE. They were held for 11 days. There was tremendous outcry, and so now they’re out. We were just in Denver, and there, Jeanette Vizguerra has taken refuge, has taken sanctuary, in the Unitarian church there. She was just named one of the most 100 important people by Time magazine. The day after, they had a gala in the church, because she couldn’t go to the Time gala in New York. The next morning, Arturo Hernández García was picked up, who had taken refuge in the church two years before and had a piece of paper that said he’s not a priority for deportation. When AFSC, American Friends Service Committee, called ICE and said, “Why did you take him?” they said, “We don’t have priorities anymore”—an odd way to put it. But, Raul?
RAUL JIMENEZ: Am I scared? Yes. I have family who is undocumented, who drive around in Charlotte-Mecklenburg County, which I believe is another 287(g) county. And so, I have family here in Wake County that is undocumented. And so, yes, I’m afraid that they’re going to get picked up, they’re going to be deported by ICE and sent back. And this—my family has family. They have kids who were born here in the U.S. So, yes, I’m afraid. But that doesn’t stop me from, you know, marching and protesting in the streets and telling Trump and the Legislature, the North Carolina Legislature, that they need to stop passing these laws that affect families in North Carolina and nationwide.