May Day 2010 in San Francisco

By Bonnie Weinstein

In one of the largest demonstrations in recent years, thousands took to the streets in San Francisco to protest the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids currently taking place in and around the Bay Area, and the draconian and racist Arizona law that allows police to stop—Gestapo style—any person suspected of being in this country “illegally.” This law targets not only Latin Americans, but anyone who looks like they may come from another country—except whites, of course, all of whose ancestors or themselves, did, indeed, come from another country!

Whole families marched. Little children carried signs that read, “I am not a criminal.” I saw several whites that participated who wore the same T-shirts that read, “We are all illegal!” Many labor unions wore identifying T-shirts and marched in contingents bringing their family members with them. And the sentiment of the crowd was overwhelmingly in support of immediate and unconditional amnesty for all. There were trucks with drummers and loud speakers who would ask the crowd, in Spanish, “What do we want?” The crowd answered, “Amnesty!” “When do we want it?” they asked. The response from the crowd—loud and clear—was, “NOW!”

The response to marchers from those on the sidelines was overwhelmingly positive and supportive. I saw many people join in the march along Mission Street.

At one point, the march passed a freeway off-ramp onto San Francisco’s Mission Street. Motorists were backed up on the exit ramp waiting for the march to pass. They stood outside of their cars cheering the march as they waited for it to pass! Many honked their horns in solidarity.

While most of the marchers were Latino, a wide diversity of people were on the march in protest of the dehumanizing U.S. ICE laws, that erect no borders for corporations and business investment interests, yet criminalizes families, and jails and deports family members, often ripping children from their parents. And while San Francisco is supposed to be a “sanctuary city,” ICE raids are being stepped-up.

On the march, the feeling of solidarity and the power that it brings was palpable. And while “Tea Party” demonstrators held a counter-protest on the steps of City Hall, immigrant-rights demonstrators overwhelmingly outnumbered them as they gathered in Civic Center Plaza following the march.

While the demonstration was a great step forward and a huge display of workers’ solidarity, we must continue to organize and stand against the ICE raids and demand full human rights and unconditional amnesty for all! No human being is illegal! We can’t stand for any laws that criminalize immigrants.