Long Beach May Day Marchers Demand City to Become Sanctuary

3 May
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May Day 2017, Long Beach, California; Photo by Barry Saks

About two hundred people, many who were youth of color, marched, Monday, May 1, from McArthur Park to Long Beach City Hall, to celebrate May Day and to highlight for Long Beach to become a sanctuary city.

Before marching at the park, a picnic table was used as a stage for the program of speeches.  The two emcees, Alex Montances from the Filipino Migrant Center and Maria Lopez from Housing Long Beach, began the  program with a chant, “Ain’t (sic) no power like the power of the people, cuz (sic) the power of the people don’t stop. Say what!”

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Alex Montances, one of two emcees, speaks on the history of May Day, in Long Beach; Photo by Barry Saks

Montances and Lopez gave a brief history of May Day and described the local May Day Coalition, including the self-characterization that the coalition is “pro-immigrant, pro-worker, pro-human rights, pro-social justice and pro-Black Lives Matter,” which was followed with cheers from the audience.

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Maria Lopez, the second emcee, leading a chant on May Day 2017, Long Beach; Photo by Barry Saks

Lopez pointed out that this year’s theme was “sanctuary for all.”  Montances was more specific.  He said the May Day Coalition wanted Long Beach to become a sanctuary city and defined briefly what he meant.  He said, “We demand a sanctuary city policy … for the police officers not to cooperate, not to use funding or resources for deportation and immigration enforcement.  They (the police) shouldn’t be sharing people’s sensitive information about people’s immigration status (with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement).”

Elisa Gomez, from the Greater Long Beach Interfaith Community Organization, spoke in Spanish with English translation.  She told the audience of the deportation and subsequent death of her brother-in-law, and that the local city representatives have been silent on making Long Beach a sanctuary city.  At the end of her talk, she said, “The city needs to protect us, but I say to ICE we are also observing you and your actions.”

Marabel Cruz of the Long Beach Immigrant Rights Coalition, who is bilingual, spoke in English and then Spanish.  She said she came to this country when she was two years-old and echoed the earlier statements for the need for Long Beach to become a sanctuary city.

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Gabrielle Sibal recites her spoken-word poem on the need for International Solidarity, May Day 2017, Long Beach; Photo by Barry Saks

Gabrielle Sibal of Gabriela Los Angeles, who characterized her organization as a “Filipina anti-imperialist organization,” read her spoken-word poem on the need for international solidarity.

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Nereyda Soto speaks on the struggle of hotel workers in Long Beach, May Day 2017; Photo by Barry Saks

Nereyda Soto of Coalition for Good Jobs and a Healthy Community also spoke.  Soto said she works in the Long Beach hotel industry and is the daughter of Salvadoran refugee.  She said, “My coworkers and I have been fighting for Claudia’s Law for two years….for a policy to protect us from sexual harassment in our workplace and overbearing workloads….and we still have not heard anything from (the Long Beach City) Council, shame.”

Three other chants, which were part of the program were “Get up, get down.  There’s a people’s movement in this town,” “I believe that we will win” and “Si se puede (Yes we can),” which was the motto of the United Farmworkers.

At the other end of the march at Long Beach City Hall, a second program of speeches began.  Montances and Lopez again emceed.  One of those who spoke was George Funmaker, who was identified as being from Red Earth Defense and who has previously organized against the Dakota Access Pipeline.  Funmaker pointed out to the crowd they were standing on Tonga land and said as indigenous people national borders aren’t recognized.  Funmaker urged the crowd to move its money from the banks, which are funding the oil pipelines, like Wells Fargo and Bank of America, to local credit unions.

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Liz Waite of Housing Long Beach Marching on May Day 2017, Long Beach; Photo by Barry Saks

Liz Waite, from Housing Long Beach, spoke.  Waite said, “Housing is a human right….We are the only city on the West Coast without renter protections.”

Bruce Jefferson, from the Warehouse Worker Resource Center, also spoke.  Jefferson said he works at Cal Cartage through a temp agency.  He said the Warehouse Worker Resource Center was organizing because of low paid, the lack of respect, no health care, favoritism and racial discrimination.

Sergio Gonzales also spoke.  Gonzales said he has been a truck driver for seven years and that he and the other drivers have been misclassified as owning their business instead of as employees.

Naida Tushnet, from the Long Beach Area Peace Network, was the last to speak.  Tushnet said, “What we are fighting for did not begin with Trump’s election…Let me tell you that the war budget is part of our problem and we need make sure we argue for a peace budget that takes care of everyone.”

While marching to Long Beach City Hall, the chants were “When workers’ rights are under attack, what do we do?  Stand up fight back.  When immigrant rights are under attack, what do we do?  Stand up, fight back,” “We are people, we are not illegal,” “From Palestine to Mexico, all these walls have got to go,” “No ban, no wall, sanctuary for all,” “Sanctuary, not deportation,” “Everywhere we go people want to know who we are.  So we tell them.  We are the workers, the mighty, mighty workers” and “Black lives they matter here” and “Move ICE, get out of the way, get out of the way, get out of the way.”

One of the marchers was Stephanie Deschams, 29, said she was there to support the rights of the immigrant community and hoped Long Beach would become a sanctuary city.  Deschams, who said she got certificates in nursing and phlebotomy from Long Beach City College, pointed out Donald Trump’s grandfather had immigrated from Germany and Ivanka Trump had immigrated from Slovenia. She said, “We (should) stand united.  If one person goes down, we all go done.”

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Robert Jay carrying is sign in McArthur Park, May Day 2017, Long Beach; Photo by Barry Saks

Another marcher was Robert Jay, 43.  Jay said he lives in Long Beach, works part-time in long shore and is a member of Local 13 of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union.  Jay said, “May 1st is important to me…. (It) is the original Labor Day, which is a sign of solidarity because every society the working-class is always in the majority.”

Besides the trade unionist Jay marching, contingents of hotel workers, teamsters and teachers also marched.

According to the website for the May Day Long Beach, the event was “presented” by Anakbayan Long Beach, Black Lives Matter Long Beach, California Faculty Association, Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice, Coalition for Latino Advancement at Long Beach City College, DAYS, Filipino Migrant Center, Gabriela Los Angeles, Greater Long Beach Interfaith Community Organization, Justice for Port Truck Drivers Campaign, LAANE-Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, LiBRE-Long Beach Residents Empowered, Little Brown Church, Long Beach Area Peace Network, Long Beach Coalition for Good Jobs & a Healthy Community, Long Beach G.R.R.R.L. Collective, Long Beach Immigrant Rights Coalition, Palestinian Youth Movement, Semillas de Esperanza (Seeds of Hope) and Stop Fracking Long Beach.

 

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