Every year for the past five years or so, members of Solid Ground’s staff have joined in the annual May Day Immigration Rights Rally & March – marching in solidarity with hardworking community members and their families calling for comprehensive immigration reform. And every year on this day, a few thousand immigrants and allies gather and march demanding reform that will make it easier for immigrants and their families to legally live and work in the United States – and to end the destructive policies that lead to detentions, raids and deportations that are breaking up families and separating children from their parents.
But this year – fueled by outrage in response to last week’s passage of an Arizona law that promotes racial profiling by encouraging law enforcement to question anyone about their immigration status if there is “reasonable suspicion” that they are undocumented – Seattle’s 10th Annual May Day march was larger and more passionate than ever. It’s not clear exactly how many people attended – one estimate was more than 10,000 – but from my vantage point, a virtual river of people filled the streets from Judkins Park in the Central District, flowed down South Jackson Street through downtown and Belltown, end emptied into Memorial Stadium at the Seattle Center.
There were joyful moments: a Latino dad draped in an American flag, his small son riding on his shoulders; drums beating; people chanting. But overall, this was serious business, and the signs marchers carried reflected it.
From “Stop Racism / Alto El Racismo” to “Do I Look ‘Illegal’?” to “I Pay My Taxes / My Husband is Not a Criminal” to “First Natives, Then Blacks, Now Latinos, Who’s Next?” to “My Skin Color is Not a Crime,” the messages expressed a demand to stop injustice, honor our common humanity, and fiercely resist laws and a political climate that dehumanizes people who are striving to create better lives for their families.
As Renée Saucedo, Community Empowerment Coordinator at San Francisco’s La Raza Centro Legal eloquently puts it, “We must continue to support immigrant communities in their struggle to obtain a fair legalization law. We must not allow certain advocacy organizations to negotiate away rights on their behalf. By organizing, marching, etc. we must continue to demand just immigration laws and to work towards ending policies which criminalize and exploit members of our community.”