Wednesday, May 5, 2010

May Day 2010 Rally in Austin, TX - International Workers' Day

Austins first May Day demonstration focused on immigrant rights was in 2006. I was stunned then by an Austin crowd as large as any I had ever seen -- 30,000 -- massive numbers, snaking through downtown streets to the federal building. That was the year of the first national mobilizations for comprehensive immigration reform. There were unprecedented turnouts occurring in every major U.S. city, including Los Angeles, Chicago and New York. Other Texas cities -- Houston, Dallas, El Paso and San Antonio -- had large demonstrations that year.

Those national mobilizations met with considerable blowback. There were rants on cable television about Mexican flags. Vigilante Minute Men got publicity for assembling on the border. More important, there were raids on places of employment, deportations, and jailings. Along with repression, the collapsing U.S. construction sector and increased violence associated with Mexican drug cartels made for a perfect storm of declining participation in subsequent years.

Arizonas law changed all that. The broad strokes of that recent legislation make the mere suspicion of undocumented status cause for questioning and detention. The potential impact on Latinos ignited Austins community as well as communities across the nation.

Organizers at the Austin Immigrant Rights Coalition (AIRC) -- -- had been holding their meetings in a small office. They moved to a church hall to accommodate the growing interest. AIRC describes itself as a grassroots, action-oriented coalition of immigrants, students, and allies including labor, faith, and community organizations. That is who they turned out for a spirited rally at the state Capitol and a march down Congress Avenue to City Hall.

Conchero dancers reminded those attending of the real non-immigrants in this country -- Native Americans. Linda Chavez, former union organizer and Democratic candidate for Lieutenant Governor, addressed the crowd. Marchers chanted:
Si se puede
[Yes, we can]
Obama, escucha, estamos en la lucha
[Obama, listen, we are in the struggle]
El pueblo unido, jamas sera vencido
[The people united will never be defeated]
Like it or not, President Obama, comprehensive immigration reform demands have moved from the shadows onto center stage.

This is a ZGraphix production.

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