Donald Trump

15,000 People Take Part in May Day March in Los Angeles

Around the world, union members traditionally march on May 1 for workers' rights, but the date has become a rallying point for immigrants

A sea of humanity moved through the streets of downtown Los Angeles Monday for the annual May Day march, with organizers and participants spurred by a distaste for the presidential policies of Donald Trump.

Thousands of people gathered in MacArthur Park for the march dubbed "Resist Los Angeles," designed to be a show of "resistance, unity and defiance" against such White House policies as ramped-up enforcement of immigration laws and an effort to build a massive border wall.

Various organizations that have planned marches in the past joined forces this year, uniting under the banner "May Day Coalition of Los Angeles" and organizing the march from MacArthur Park to Los Angeles City Hall.

It marks the first time in more than 10 years there has been such unity among organizers of May Day marches. Organizers predicted that more than 100,000 people would participate in the "Resist Los Angeles" event. While thousands of people took part, the crowd fell well short of that goal.

Los Angeles police did not give an official crowd estimate, but authorities told reporters at the scene they were estimating around 15,000 participants.

"This is probably five times larger than last year, but it's not as big as 2006. It is definitely 30,000 to 40,000 people, I heard," Stuart Kwoh, executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Los Angeles, told City News Service.

Kwoh, who also addressed the crowd from a large stage that was erected on the Spring Street steps of City Hall, tied the lessons of the Los Angeles riots -- which broke out 25 years ago Saturday -- to Trump's attempts to strong- arm local police forces into cooperating with federal immigration laws by threatening to cut off federal funding to so-called "sanctuary cities."

"In 25 years we have learned that the police cannot be an occupying military force. They have to have the trust of the community. And they cannot have the trust of the community if they are an occupying deportation force either," Kwoh told CNS.

UCLA student and Native American activist Shannon Rivers, who is also a leader of the movement pushing the city to divest its money from Wells Fargo due to its support of the Dakota Access pipeline, said various issues brought people to the march.

"There's all kinds of different issues. Migrant issues, the freedom and right to mobility. People have a human right to be mobile," Rivers told CNS. "We have gay-transgender issues, we have LGBT issues. We have inequality. Those are basic structural things we have to change. I don't know if we can change those things in our current system. We are so xenophobic."

Rivers was also among a long list of speakers who addressed the crowd, including Alex Caputo-Pearl, president of United Teachers Los Angeles; Rusty Hicks, executive secretary and treasurer of the L.A. County Federation of Labor; and Mayor Eric Garcetti.

"We (teachers) will stand with this movement. We will stand with you for civil rights, for educational justice and this movement is the most important movement in the United States and the teachers are with you," Caputo- Pearl told the crowd.

At MacArthur Park, musician Tom Morello of the band Rage Against the Machine was among those rallying the crowd before the march began. Juan Jose Gutierrez, national coordinator of the Full Rights for Immigrants Coalition, said the march would send a message to the administration of President Donald Trump that "our just struggle for comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship is here to stay until we win it."

Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, a candidate for governor, was among those taking part in the march.

"This year you're going to see an unprecedented number of people here in Los Angeles, primarily because of what's going on with Trump and his administration -- the ban, the wall, the talk of deporting 11 million people. Nobody's ever done that anywhere," he said. "I think for all of those reasons you're going to see an outpouring of people today."

Marchers carried a large U.S. flag, and many carried signs with messages such as "Rise Up LA," "Stop LAPD cooperation with ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement)" and "ICE out of California."

A separate late-afternoon march was held in Boyle Heights, beginning at Cesar Chavez Avenue and Evergreen Street and ending at Mariachi Plaza at First and Boyle streets. Meanwhile, a group of pro-Trump activists held a gathering of its own. About 100 Trump supporters stood in front of the downtown Federal Building, chanting and carrying signs and U.S. flags while police kept traffic moving on North Los Angeles Street.

A dozen or so anti-Trump protesters -- many wearing black clothing with ski masks covering their faces -- stood outside yellow police tape occasionally trying to shout down the Trump supporters. One person set fire to an American flag as tensions heightened. One person was later handcuffed and placed into a police van. Police said one person had been detained for trying to set an item on fire, although it was unclear if the item was the flag that was burned near the Federal Building.

There was also reports of a second person being arrested for allegedly throwing items. Trump supporters chanted slogans including "Put America first" and "USA," while some carried signs with messages such as "Repeal Obamacare" and "Trump -- Make America Great Again!" Led by a phalanx of Los Angeles police officers, the Trump group marched from the Federal Building to LAPD headquarters.

Jo Reitkopp, chair of event organizer "Make California Great Again Inc.," said Trump supporters wanted to "step up and stand for our country and its Constitution ... for which millions of USA military men and women have lost their lives." Police set up a skirmish line to separate the pro- and anti-Trump forces in the Civic Center area. Both sides shouted back and forth, often using profanities, but there were no reports of any physical confrontations. After the pro-Trump forces left the area, some masked anti-Trump protesters tore apart signs they left behind as police kept a close watch. There were no immediate reports of additional arrests.

Representatives from some community groups called for a general strike in conjunction with the marches, even encouraging students to either not attend school or walk out of classes. There was even a call for the Los Angeles Unified School District to close for the day, but the district rejected the request.

"At the heart of this decision is our unwavering commitment to keep kids safe," LAUSD Superintendent Michelle King wrote in a letter in early April. "Civic engagement undeniably plays a vital role in our democracy, and we embrace the rights of all students, families and employees to unite and magnify their voices locally so that their messages can resonate on a larger scale. "Nevertheless, schools continue to be the safest places for students to incubate an interest in civic engagement, and we encourage all schools to use May 1 as an opportunity to discuss matters of civic importance," King wrote.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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