Immigrants respond despite ‘officials’ pulling out of protests
Thousands attend Boston May Day rally
May Day 2006 was a truly historic day of strikes, walkouts, protests and boycotts throughout the United States. It marked an important step forward for the immigrant rights’ movement. Although many politicians, non-profit groups and churches that previously supported immigrant rights rallies backed out of the immigrants’ May Day protests, millions upon millions still demonstrated throughout the country. Thousands of small businesses shut down, and hundreds of thousands of workers went on strike.
In Boston, the main immigrant rights coalition pulled out of the May Day actions. The churches, trade union leaders and politicians backed out, too. The leaders of the previous two immigrant rallies specifically told people to go to work and school and to ignore the 1 May ‘National Immigrant Strike and Boycott’, and they refused to call a central demonstration downtown.
Given this, Socialist Alternative (CWI in the US) immediately moved to get a rally permit for the centre of Boston, and called for an emergency coalition in solidarity with the national strike. With other activists, we were able to call a rally that was endorsed by over 25 immigrant, worker and progressive organizations.
Despite a concerted campaign by the ‘liberals’ to sabotage and censor all mention of our event, our protest was a success. Around three thousand rallied on Boston Common, in a spirited demonstration of support for equal rights for all immigrants.
This demonstration was in marked contrast to previous immigrant rights’ rallies in Boston. These were overwhelmed with American flags, and demonstrators were forced to sit through politician after politician talking about the virtues of the "alternative" anti-worker McCain-Kennedy bill on immigrants.
But during the May Day rally, the most common image was that of Che Guevara. The May Day rally unapologetically called for amnesty for all undocumented workers. Workers’ struggle was stressed by nearly every speaker.
The main immigrant coalition in Boston said that Socialist Alternative, and others in the Boston May Day coalition, would not be welcomed by immigrant communities. They were wrong. Three thousand immigrant and native-born workers came to the May Day rally. Strikes and student walkouts happened in surrounding areas of Boston.
Energetic and audacious
Our energetic and audacious organizing earned us big respect among some of the genuine Latino socialists in Boston and we formed new connections with immigrant and community organizations that we did not have before – particularly in the Dominican community.
A member of Socialist Alternative in Boston organized a strike in his small non-union workplace (two pizza shops), which has both native-born and immigrant workers. Despite threats of firings, the strike shut down both pizza shops.
Dozens of immigrant-owned small businesses posted our rally poster on their windows, and told us they would close their businesses for May Day. When we handed out our flyer in immigrant areas, many workers asked for extra flyers to hand out in their workplaces. Our literature advertising the rally was translated into Spanish, Portuguese and Haitian Creole.
A Socialist Alternative member was an MC (master of ceremonies) at the May Day rally. We also had an additional speaker, who addressed the crowd in both Spanish and English. His speech was frequently interrupted by the crowd’s loud applause. One of our members was also interviewed by several local radio stations and newspapers.
We had 300 copies of our newspaper, ‘Justice’, at the rally. We sold all of them. We had two thousand copies of our leaflet for our next meeting on, ‘The way forward for the immigrant rights movement’. We got rid of nearly every one of them – in a crowd of three thousand!
This rally was a breakthrough for Socialist Alternative in Boston. We established links with immigrant community activists, and we have raised the banner of the CWI throughout the city, to a greater extent than ever before!