In 2006, amid calls for Congress to act on promises of immigration reform, an estimated half-million people hit the streets of Los Angeles for a May Day march organized by labor leaders. A swell of people walked down Wilshire Boulevard through the Miracle Mile, producing one of the city's largest-ever demonstrations. Thousands of Angelenos walked off the job. Retailers and manufacturers closed their doors. They called it “A Day Without an Immigrant.”
This year, with even stronger polarization over the plight of the undocumented, a coalition of labor and immigrants rights groups is organizing a May 1 demonstration, “We Resist in Los Angeles,” that could top 2006's turnout. The difference between now and then, of course, is Donald Trump, who's been a huge draw for progressive protests.
“The impact of the election of Donald Trump on working and immigrant families in L.A. is creating a unified movement against him,” says Adan Alvarez, a spokesman for the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE), part of the coalition behind the May Day march. “We're hoping for a larger number of folks than in 2006.”
A representative of the powerful Los Angeles Federation of Labor, also an organizer, endorsed the goal of overshadowing 2006's turnout. Ditto for Elizabeth Strater, a spokeswoman for United Service Workers West (SEIU), another coalition member, who says, “We're expecting a very large response.”
“L.A. is going to be ground zero,” she says. “This has the potential to leave 2006 on page 2.”
The coalition, which also includes the Central American Resource Center (CARECEN), the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA), the Korea Immigrant Workers Association (KIWA), Los Angeles Black Worker Center and UCLA Labor Center, has scheduled a press conference tomorrow to announce more details about the May Day event.
The action will start at 11 a.m. at MacArthur Park in Westlake, according to organizers. Demonstrators are expected to march to Grand Park downtown. While this “general strike,” part of International Workers Day, isn't a formal labor strike, organizations would like to see L.A. workers take the day off.
“We're encouraging people to take the day off work and school, close their businesses and participate in this event,” Alvarez of LAANE says.
Trump kicked off his presidential campaign in June 2015 by characterizing Mexican immigrants as criminals and rapists. Since then he has followed through with anti-immigrant policies that include planning a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border and attempting to ban travelers from certain majority-Muslim countries.
“There is a united and broad coalition against these attacks,” Alvarez says. “We want to demonstrate the power of our diverse communities in L.A. There is power in numbers.”