Hundreds march in Bay Area May Day rallies

Several hundred people demonstrate for economic and social justice in May Day rallies around the Bay Area.
May 1, 2014 12:00:00 AM PDT
A big crowd of several hundred marched Thursday night through the Fruitvale District of Oakland. It was the biggest of several May Day demonstrations that took place in what's become a May 1 tradition in the Bay Area. Immigration reform, minimum wage, police violence -- those are some of the issues prompting thousands of people to take to the streets tonight.

At the Fruitvale BART Plaza in Oakland, the regional march is in celebration of International Workers' Day. More than 800 people took to the streets, many hoping to highlight issues beyond fare wages and labor laws. The hot topic this year is immigration, specifically, ending the deportation of undocumented migrant workers.

Beginning as a way to recognize the international labor movement, organizers say it has taken on a larger meaning and transformed into an annual human rights protest they say will touch on the issues affecting their community. Surprisingly, most of the anger this year is focused on President Obama and what they are calling the aggressive deportations.

"The Latino community and the migrant community helped him get elected and this is how he repaid us by deporting and separating our families," said demonstrator Ruben Leao.

Etelvina Lopez, a demonstrator who brought her children, said, "I think it's really important for them to be here today and for them to learn and be included and see from a very young age that everyone's rights need to be respected. Women, immigrants people of color, everyone's rights."

To prevent things from getting out of hand, Oakland police have brought in dozens of extra officers on duty to cover the rally. The police department spokeswoman said they welcome demonstrators, but they expect everyone to behave. If not, they had officers moving in the crowd ready to respond and make arrests if needed.

Demonstrators march in San Jose for increased wages

Thursday evening two San Jose May Day marches merged into one. One group came from Our Lady of Guadalupe Church and the other came from Story and South King Road and met at San Jose City Hall. They marched to try to get more money for working families and to prevent families from being deported.

Two brothers and their sister are providing the human face for the debate over immigration reform. Their mother was deported to Mexico Wednesday because she was undocumented. As they march, they point out there are millions more like them whose families have been separated.

"I really do need my mother to be back here, not for me, for my wellbeing, but for the wellbeing of my 12-year-old brother because he deserves to grow up within the guidance of my mother," said David Gonzalez, Antonia Aguilar's son.

A long-time activist, Father Jon Pedigo from Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, says current policy is divisive. Father Pedigo told ABC7 News, "These deportations are set to intimidate and divide the immigrant family, to destabilize our workforce, to intimidate workers from working together or organizing into unions, to intimidate workers from fighting for their rights, to intimidate neighbors to not support each other."

Families went to mass to pray before the march, but there is growing frustration among marchers that elected officials in Washington are not listening to them.

"The biggest impediment we have in moving immigration reform is that the American people don't trust the president to enforce or implement the law that we may or may not pass," said Speaker of the House Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio.

Another critical issue for May Day marchers is closing the pay gap. San Jose raised the minimum wage in January from $8 to $10 an hour.

"Workers that have gotten the raises have been increasingly able to pay for necessities, and other workers benefit from that because it means there's increased economic activity in this community," said Ben Field from the South Bay Labor Council.

Neighboring cities and Santa Clara County are still considering similar ordinances. But a restaurant owner points out once floor staff got a raise, so did the dishwasher.

"Once I moved him up, then the next guy in line that is working the saut?s, I had to adjust him up, too. So what it did was create a sliding scale for me," said George Nobile from Vito's Trattoria.

There are many different points of view and no easy path to compromise or resolution, but this May Day rally gives immigrant families and workers an opportunity to raise their voices.


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