Thousands of people filled Main Street in downtown LA this afternoon and evening to demand legalization of undocumented workers and oppose vicious plans for mass criminalization, deportation, and border militarization, as the wave of mobilizations for immigrant rights continued to ripple across the country.
Chants of "Si Se Puede!" and "Bush! Escucha! Estamos en la Lucha!" (Bush! Listen! We have joined the struggle!) echoed from the walls of buildings surrounding Placita Olvera, which was so packed with people that by 6:30 or so the march organizers had to close it off and tell folks to keep marching around in the nearby streets.
A series of speakers, including radio personality el Piolín (who has played a key role in organizing Spanish language DJs in LA to pump the marches), amped up a mostly Latino crowd of all ages, while Korean drummers dropped infectious beats for social justice and the sharp crack and roll of snare drums echoed from another corner of the march.
People waved American and Mexican flags prominently, and lit candles at dusk while guitar and vocals filled the air over a tinny sound system.
Unlike the Gran Marcha on the 25th, this time, some of the english language TV news seems ready. Satellite trucks lined the street a block away from Placita, camera crews at the ready, while 3 or 4 helicopters circled like buzzards overhead. We'll see what kind of coverage the corporate press produces.
It was clear that there were many more people who came out on March 25th, but it would be a deep mistake to imagine that La Gran Marcha was a one-time fluke. The energy of the speakers and the crowd palpably communicated the fact that these mobilizations are going to continue to grow. By the end of the evening, the phrase that was repeated over and over again was "We'll be back on May 1st."
One notable similarity to la Gran Marcha was the lack of non Latino immigrant communities, with some exceptions. Also glaringly obvious was the failure of other segments of the left to turn out in significant numbers - although SEIU supported the marches and had speakers in solidarity, non-Latino labor was nowhere to be seen.
The broader antiwar movement doesn't seem to have woken up to the fact that this is a serious mobilization wave of people, many of whom have never come out to street protests before. There have been some solidarity statements but almost no turnout. That needs to change if there's going to be hope for a revitalized, strong movement for social justice in this country. There is an opportunity to really advance here, but the non-Latino left is moving very, very slowly.
For progressives and radicals of all stripes, now is the time to start organizing towards May 1st. The national boycott, strike, and walkout scheduled for May 1st is already building steam and promises to be at least as huge as March 25th, but on a national scale. To take it to the next level, all the segments of the left should commit now to mobilizing towards that date. While hoping that it will reach the level of a General Strike seems overly optimistic, there's more possibility now than there has been in decades. Don't sleep.
More on May 1st: http://www.nohr4437.org/