Thousands marched in May Day demonstrations in Oakland bringing renewed vigor to a day of protest with recently flagging numbers.
An estimated 2,000-3,000 protesters rallied outside Fruitvale Village before marching to San Antonio Park in East Oakland. Recently, the annual day of protest has become associated with the immigrants’ rights cause but the Oakland event emphasized both immigrant and labor rights campaigns.
Attendance at May 1 marches both nationwide and in Oakland had dwindled since their inception in 2006 when protests had garnered national attention. This year, activists came out in several cities around the Bay Area including a protest at the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office to demand Sheriff Gregory Ahern make Alameda County a “sanctuary county” and a walkout out at the Port of Oakland by union dockworkers.
Gary Jimenez, East Bay regional vice president of the Service Employees International Union, attributed the increased vitality of the march to increasing hostility toward labor and immigrants at the federal level.
“We recognize that there’s a trend in the country that’s not in favor of working families,” Jimenez said.
Jimenez called May Day the “real Labor Day,” referencing the historic meaning of May 1. In late 19th century America, workers endured 16-hour days in harsh and often dangerous conditions. But in 1886, between 300,000-500,000 workers struck in favor of an eight-hour workday. The strike was broken when violence erupted in Chicago, leaving several striking workers and police officers dead in what became known as the Haymarket affair.
The first May Day, known as International Workers’ Day, was held in 1889 to commemorate the slain workers.
In addition to the SEIU, workers from the hospitality union Unite Here! and postdoctoral fellows organized under the United Auto Workers banner participated.
Last Thursday, Sheila Tully, president of the California Faculty Association San Francisco chapter, announced via email that the CFA would act in concert at the San Francisco march.
Around 3 p.m., hundreds of people began gathering at the intersection of 34th Avenue and International Boulevard, where speakers railed against President Trump and Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, “La Migra.”
Many in the crowd were angered by Trump’s ban on travel from Muslim-majority countries and his proposed wall along the U.S.-Mexican border.
“No ban. No wall. Justice for all,” the crowd chanted.
Shortly after 4 p.m., dancers dressed in indigenous attire and drummers led the westward procession to San Antonio Park. Once there, organizers held teach-ins and participants broke a piñata in Trump’s likeness.
Some said that the Trump administration had targeted minority communities. Liam Cain, Industrial Workers of the World member, felt it important for white workers to show support for people of color and LGBQT+ workers.
“The more people we have in the streets, the more voice that everybody has,” Cain said.
The protests, billed in San Francisco as “A Day Without Immigrants,” were punctuated by walkouts in schools around the Bay Area.
Reyna Jauregui, a high school junior who helped organize the student strike at Fremont High, echoed the sentiment. She said that people had been criminalized because of their skin color.
“I can’t stand to see everything that’s happening and be like ‘It’s okay,’” Jauregui said.