Today (5/1/07), I attended the May Day demonstrations in Los Angeles at City Hall and MacArthur Park. The thing I noticed most was the sound of helicopters. The second thing I noticed was the strong representation of young people (folks under 25) and young children with their families. The third thing was the flags- US flags, Mexican flags, Salvadoran flags, and others. Young people waved these flags of various sizes and some wore them tied around their shoulders. The fourth thing was that the size of this years demonstrations seemed much smaller than last May. And, finally, I noticed the increasing police presence and harassment as the afternoon went on. When we left a little after 5 pm, police in riot gear were standing in the streets with the batons drawn. Some had cans of tear gas on their belts. All this in the presence of many children.
I was fortunate to interview several folks at the rallies. I talked with students who had walked out of their high school to march "for their rights." One of the young women said her brother was in detention as we speak because he doesn't have papers. I talked with nurses active in SEIU who said they believed all people needed to unite and work on our common problems as working class people. A young undocumented woman expressed her fear that she could be picked up any time and put into a detention center. An African American city worker said he believed that all people deserved to make a decent wage for their work. Young missionaries came from San Bernadino because they serve immigrants and believe that all people deserve social services and a decent quality of life.
I saw no evidence that the police repression at the end of the event was provoked by the demonstrators. A young woman I talked with said that the police had begun driving their motorcycles into the crowd, which made the people angry. She thought the police were just trying to intimidate them and scare them. I heard on the news later that the police eventually fired rubber bullets at the remaining demonstrators. I'm not sure yet what injuries may have occurred. This whole scene reminded me of the police response to the student demonstrators in Birmingham, Alabama. Hasta la victoria siempre.
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