U.S. May Day Marches Highlighted Immigrant Rights

May 2, 2017
Originally published on May 2, 2017 8:19 am
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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Around the United States on May Day yesterday, the traditional labor union marches marking International Workers' Day swelled into larger-than-usual protests in support of immigrant rights. NPR's Kirk Siegler reports.

KIRK SIEGLER, BYLINE: Heavily Latino Los Angeles has long been an incubator of immigrant movements. But unlike some recent protests, this one numbered in the thousands, not hundreds of thousands. Organizers say some people are simply afraid to go out in public for longer than they need to with reports of arrests and deportations on the rise.

PAULINA DIAZ: We're used to it at this point. It's sad, but we're used to fighting for our rights.

SIEGLER: This is Paulina Diaz. She was part of an Obama era program for children brought to this country illegally by their parents known as Deferred Action. It allowed her to go to college. Diaz was not afraid. She felt like she had to come out to support her friends and family.

DIAZ: Just to reassure them that they have people to back them up and people to stand for them and we're not going to take it.

SIEGLER: Diaz took the day off and drove down from a farming town in the Central Valley where she's now a schoolteacher. Immigrant rights, especially for service and farmworkers, was a prominent theme at May Day rallies across the country.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Speaking Spanish).

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Speaking Spanish).

SIEGLER: In rural Pennsylvania, Efren Diego helped organize a march of farmworkers and mushroom packers in the town of Kennett Square. He says workers are on edge after recent immigration and customs enforcement raids that reportedly led to the arrests of several people.

EFREN DIEGO: The main message, the idea, is stop deportation and then also stop the intimidation.

SIEGLER: That small march was peaceful, but the mood got tense in other places. Police in Portland, Ore. canceled March permits after self-described anarchists destroyed a cop car, set fires and broke windows downtown. There was also rioting reported in Olympia, Wash. and arrests in Seattle.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We need to build a wall.

SIEGLER: In downtown LA, a group of Trump supporters greeted May Day marchers as they converged at City Hall. They sang along to the rap song "Ice Ice Baby" by Vanilla Ice. Brian Valente draped himself in an American flag and stood between a line of police and anti-Trump protesters, some of them waving Mexican flags.

BRIAN VALENTE: Well, we're all about legal immigration. You know, that's 100 percent. We are a country made of legal immigration.

SIEGLER: The two sides hurled insults at one another, and the occasional scuffle broke out as up the street, a much more muted crowd listened to the actual labor union speakers on a stage. Kirk Siegler, NPR News, Los Angeles. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.