Bay Area activists prepare to march in historic May Day rallies

Published on April 28th, 2017

Tatiana Sanchez
April 30, 2017
Marin Independent Journal

For the first time since 2010 when Maria Guadalupe Betancourt opened her Mendoza’s Restaurant on San Jose’s McKee Road, she will close its doors for a day on May 1.

On Monday, the Mexican immigrant and her staff of 40 — wearing customized white T-shirts printed with phrases such as “Black Lives Matter” and “No human is illegal” — will join hundreds of thousands of people nationwide in massive May Day demonstrations denouncing the Trump administration’s stringent immigration policies.

With demonstrations and strikes planned across the Bay Area — including an ICE protest in San Francisco, a shutdown of the Port of Oakland, employee walkouts at some of Silicon Valley’s tech giants and at dozens of schools — the protests will likely rival the magnitude of the historic May Day rallies of 2006, when millions of people across the U.S. took to the streets demanding federal immigration reform.

“We as organizers see May 1 as a continuum of the campaigns that have been happening year-round to protect our communities,” said Sagnicthe Salazar, an organizer with Oakland Sin Fronteras and the Xicana Moratorium Coalition.

Betancourt said she’s closing the restaurant as a show of solidarity. The 48-year-old was hired as a cook at another Mendoza’s location 20 years ago after immigrating to San Jose from Michoacán, Mexico.

“This country would be nothing without immigrants,” said Betancourt. “That’s the way it is, even if they don’t want to recognize it. Even if they treat us like criminals, the reality is that we’re not. We come to work.”

Alicia Gallegos, Betancourt’s niece and manager of the restaurant, said participating in the demonstrations is a “social and moral duty.” The family plans to carpool with its employees to Mexican Heritage Plaza in San Jose on Monday, where an estimated 10,000 people are expected to rally before marching to the Arena Greens along North Autumn and West Santa Clara streets.

“As Latinos we’re more united right now,” Gallegos said. “We want to make change, and the only thing we ask for is respect for our rights. We’re here contributing to this country, and the only thing we want is to move our families forward.”

Building on momentum from the March for Science, the Women’s March on Washington and other historic rallies challenging Trump administration policies, organizers said they expect Monday’s demonstrations to bring together people of all backgrounds.

“This administration has brought together more people as allies,” said Maria Marroquín, executive director of the Day Worker Center of Mountain View, explaining that the 2006 rallies drew mostly Latinos. “This administration has seen a lot of legal losses lately, and little by little, they need to notice and accept that we are the people and we have the power.”

The Day Worker Center is among dozens of businesses and organizations throughout the Bay Area expected to close for the day, adding a new element to this year’s demonstrations inspired by similar actions taken for a “Day Without an Immigrant” and a “Day Without a Woman.”

May Day, also known as “International Workers’ Day,” is marked annually on May 1 to honor the efforts and sacrifices of workers around the world. But in recent years, May Day events have become rallying cries for immigration reform, particularly in major metropolitan cities with large Latino populations.

Day Worker Center volunteers, from left, Marilu Delgado, 64, Dave Arnone, 54, and Job Lopez, 72, display the signs that they’ll use for the May Day rallies at the Day Worker Center of Mountain View in Mountain View, Calif., on Wednesday, April 26, 2017. (LiPo Ching/Bay Area News Group) 

Many immigrants have expressed fear and indignation toward Trump’s crackdown on illegal immigration in particular, following the implementation of several policies that vastly expand the number of undocumented immigrants at risk of deportation.

California has led a national resistance to Trump’s immigration crackdown with proposed policies like SB 54, a controversial bill that would turn California into a “sanctuary state” by shielding undocumented immigrants from deportation through limiting cooperation between local law enforcement and federal immigration agents.

Santa Clara County and San Francisco this week were granted a preliminary injunction against Trump’s executive order to defund sanctuary cities, a victory that catapulted the region to the forefront of the national immigration debate.

Demonstrators in Oakland will participate in a string of actions Monday, including a morning protest at the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office to call for the protection of the city’s undocumented immigrants. A larger demonstration will take place at 3 p.m. at the Fruitvale Plaza. Organizers also said longshoremen will walk off the job, shutting down the Port of Oakland. At least 10 school walkouts are scheduled.

“We want to respond to the current political moment under the new administration and show what it’s costing us locally and abroad,” Oakland organizer Salazar said.

Joe Guzzardi, spokesman for the organization Californians for Population Stabilization, which favors stricter immigration enforcement, said while May Day rallies have been going on for at least a decade, they haven’t been particularly effective.

“The problem with these rallies and similar rallies is that they target the wrong audience,” Guzzardi said. “The audience that these activists want to reach are people who are on the fence about illegal immigration, … but they don’t do that.”

Officials in San Jose will set tow-away restrictions from 12:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. for parking along Santa Clara Street and Alum Rock Avenue from King Road to the SAP Center, according to the city’s Department of Transportation. Police will determine road closures as necessary depending on crowd size and other factors. A rolling closure of north & south streets will occur as the march progresses from the Mexican Heritage Plaza to the SAP Center, the DOT said.

Bus service will be rerouted on Alum Rock Avenue and Santa Clara Street to McKee Road and East Julian Street, between King Road and Autumn Street, according to the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority. They expect about 10,000 demonstrators.

“We know what the policies of the Trump administration are, in terms of undocumented immigration and all of these threats that have been put out,” said San Jose activist Chava Bustamante, who helped organize the city’s May Day event. “The Latino community is very upset about those policies. What better opportunity for people to have an outlet for their fears and all the emotion that they’ve been accumulating since Trump began running for president?”

Carmen Lopez, a gardener who frequents the Day Worker Center of Mountain View, has been an activist since he lived in his native Oaxaca. He’ll join dozens of other people from the worker center Monday in the May Day rally in Mountain View.

“I have an idea,” Lopez said, “and I can sense it, that this march is going to be big.”

San Francisco: 8 a.m. rally and street festival at Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) office, 630 Sansome St. 11 a.m. rally at Justin Herman Plaza with march to Civic Center.

Mountain View: 4 p.m. march beginning at Rengstorff Park Community Center, 201 S. Rengstorff Ave. A rally will follow at 5:45 p.m. at City Hall, 500 Castro St.

San Jose: 1 p.m. rally at Mexican Heritage Plaza, 1700 Alum Rock Ave. 3 p.m. march to Arena Greens at Autumn and Santa Clara streets.

Morgan Hill: 4 p.m. march from Galvan Park, 17666 Crest Ave., to ICE Office, 220 Vineyard Court. Organizers suggest that only U.S. citizens attend.

Oakland: 3 p.m. rally at Fruitvale Plaza, 3526 San Leandro St.

Concord: 4 p.m. rally at Meadow Homes Park, 1351 Detroit Ave., Concord

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