Saturday, April 26, 2008

May Day Focus: Immigrants & War

Labor, youth, peace and advocacy groups will hold May Day events around the world next Thursday. In the US, rallies and protests on May 1, in cities such as Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, San Francisco, San Jose, Seattle, the Twin Cities, Tucson, Amherst, Pittsburgh, and Washington, D.C., will focus largely on immigrant rights and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It remains to be seen whether major US media will take notice.

Dockworkers on the West Coast plan to shut down ports from San Diego to Seattle to protest the wars in Iraq and in Afghanistan. Members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) say that they will lay down their tools and walk off the job "to demand an immediate end to the war and occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan and the withdrawal of troops from the Middle East."

Many marches, teach-ins, and vigils will celebrate the contributions of immigrant communities and advocate for comprehensive immigration reform. The link between immigrant rights and May Day emerged strongly in 2006, when the US Congress was considering a bill that would criminalize undocumented immigrants who live and work in the US and those who aid them.

In Los Angeles, May Day activities will start at 2 p.m., with rallies at MacArthur Park and at Olympic and Broadway, followed by a march to City Hall. In Boston, a rally will be held at the Boston Common Bandstand, starting at 4 pm, followed by a march to Copley Square. Activists in Boston are calling an end to raids and deportations, legalization for all migrant workers, no militarization or walls along the US borders, and an end to war – on immigrants and abroad.

In Istanbul, labor organizations have vowed to hold a massive May Day rally even though permission has been refused by authorities for workers to gather in Taksim Square. In Cuba, unionists, parliamentarians, politicians, and members of social and progressive movements from around the world will celebrate the workers’ holiday.

In Moscow, however, the mayor's office says it won’t allow gay pride marches – previously broken up by ultra-nationalists – to take place on this year's May Day holiday. The announcement came as a gay rights leader said he was planning events throughout the month to highlight the repression of sexual minorities in Russia.

Since the late 19th Century, May 1 has been celebrated as International Workers’ Day, commemorating the execution of the men arrested after the 1886 Haymarket Riot in Chicago. In 1958, concerned about Communist influence, the US Congress designated it as Loyalty Day.

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