May Day immigrants rights actions

A crowd of protesters holding US flags in Los Angeles CA.
Immigrants rights protest in Los Angeles, CA.

May 1st is International Workers’ Day and in recent years has been a day of take action for immigrants rights in the U.S. This year saw an escalation of tactics to demonstrate to the Obama administration the urgent need for immigration reform. This escalation also represents anger and resolve to win immigration reform following the passage of Arizona’s racial profiling law.

The largest action took place in Los Angeles, CA where as many as 60,000 people took part in the march. Demonstrations occurred in over 70 places across the country.

Protesters numbered 25,000 in Dallas, more than 10,000 in Chicago and Milwaukee, in the thousands in San Francisco and here in Washington, D.C., according to the police and independent estimates.

In Washington, DC the protest was led by the Trail of Dreams trekkers, Felipe Matos, Gaby Pacheco, Carlos Roa, and Juan Rodriguez, who walked 1500 miles from Florida to DC in support of the DREAM Act, which would make a college education possible and create a path to citizenship for some undocumented immigrants. (The walkers had some of their equipment stolen in DC. Click here to support them with a donation.) Click here to take action in support of the DREAM Act.

Protesters sit in front of the White House wearing shirts that Arrest Me Not My Family and holding signs
Protesters stage sit-in in front of the White House before being arrested.

In DC 35 protesters, including Representative Luis V. Gutierrez of Illinois, were arrested when they staged a sit-in in front of the White House.

“There are moments in which you say, ‘We will escalate this struggle,’ ” [Representative Gutierrez] said. “Today they will put handcuffs on us. But one day we will be free at last in the country we love.”…

Mr. Gutierrez was handcuffed behind his back with plastic cuffs by the Park Police, and he walked in silence when an officer led him away along the black wrought-iron fence in front of the White House. Among others arrested with him were Jaime Contreras, director for Washington, D.C., of the Service Employees International Union; Joshua Hoyt, Ali Noorani, Deepak Bhargava, and Gustavo Torres, leaders of immigrant advocate organizations; and Gregory Cendana, president of the United States Student Association.

This act of civil disobedience is part of an escalation of tactics on a number of issues that organizers are frustrated have not yet seen action spearheaded by the Obama administration. Protesters have been arrested opposing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and fighting for the passage of ENDA. Risking arrest to raise awareness and urge political action can be a risky tactic, especially for members of marginalized populations who suffer discrimination and abuse when arrested, including transgender folks who have participated in recent actions. These protesters all have my greatest respect and support.

Take action now to support immigration reform.

RELATED: Immigration is most definitely a feminist issue, 6 out of 10 migrant women raped in Mexico

Boston, MA

Jos Truitt is Executive Director of Development at Feministing. She joined the team in July 2009, became an Editor in August 2011, and Executive Director in September 2013. She writes about a range of topics including transgender issues, abortion access, and media representation. Jos first got involved with organizing when she led a walk out against the Iraq war at her high school, the Boston Arts Academy. She was introduced to the reproductive justice movement while at Hampshire College, where she organized the Civil Liberties and Public Policy Program’s annual reproductive justice conference. She has worked on the National Abortion Federation’s hotline, was a Field Organizer at Choice USA, and has volunteered as a Pro-Choice Clinic Escort. Jos has written for publications including The Guardian, Bilerico, RH Reality Check, Metro Weekly, and the Columbia Journalism Review. She has spoken and trained at numerous national conferences and college campuses about trans issues, reproductive justice, blogging, feminism, and grassroots organizing. Jos completed her MFA in Printmaking at the San Francisco Art Institute in Spring 2013. In her "spare time" she likes to bake and work on projects about mermaids.

Jos Truitt is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Development.

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Join the Conversation

  • konkonsn

    Sitting in front of the White House is illegal? Or just when you’re protesting? I’m…confused. If I have chronic pain and need to sit down for an hour, is this ok?
    I’m just honestly curious about this because I’ve been participating in an online debate about Dan Choi’s choice to wear his uniform while protesting, which I didn’t know went against military policy. Some service people are very upset over that choice (but that’s a different debate).

  • Anna

    Greg Cendana is a friend, fierce pinoy and a fellow UCLA alumni. LOVE HIM!!!

  • pokemontaco.wordpress.com

    Nothing on the protesters that were arrested for smashing windows, vandalizing property, and beating up people that disagreed with them?
    Come on, you know they’re going to be in a lot more trouble than the people that just sat down where they weren’t supposed to.

  • ondfly123

    I’m curious as to what action the protestors were taking was illegal as well… I don’t understand the ins and outs of that.

  • ondfly123

    Yes, any political action by an active duty military member AS a military member is against military regulations (law) and therefore punishable by JAG. Military members are not even supposed to make political or religious statements at work, in public etc… in uniform as it goes against policy. Most do not follow this, however as it often comes up in casual conversation – casual being the operative word -as it would in any work place. It is generally only considered a problem if someone “makes a fuss” – i.e., protests or complains…
    I’ve seen it estimated that 75% of the service is conservative and votes Republican. That can make it hard for the other 25%.