‘We Are All Immigrants’ : 10,000 at Austin May Day March

An estimated 10,000 May Day protesters gathered at the Texas State Capitol for a rally and then marched through downtown Austin in support of immigrants’ rights. Photo by Carlos Lowry / The Rag Blog.

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Arizona awakens a sleeping giant

Provided with a hefty kick start from Arizona’s outlandish new immigration law, hundreds of thousands of May Day protesters in at least 80 cities around the country hit the streets yesterday, with as many as 50,000 in Texas alone.

In Austin, 10,000 people filled the Capitol grounds — a large majority of them Latino — for a spirited rally on the steps of the statehouse, and then formed a six-block-long parade down Congress Avenue to City Hall. The biggest crowd in Texas was in Dallas, where Bishop Kevin J. Farrell of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Dallas, led 20-25,000 marchers through downtown streets. 7,500 marched in Houston.

The largest demonstration was in Los Angeles, with a throng estimated as high as 100,000. Singer and Cuban emigrant Gloria Estefan, speaking from a flat bed truck, reminded the massive crowd that we are a nation of immigrants, while LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa told the marchers, “We need to write laws that appeal to our better angels.”

In Washington, a demonstration turned to civil disobedience, as U.S. Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez (D-Ill) was one of 35 arrested for sitting down in front of the White House fence, and refusing to “move on.” Gutierrez said he decided to be arrested “to escalate the struggle.” 20,000 marched in Chicago and thousands participated in other cities from coast to coast.

Labor organizer John Delgado told thousands in Manhattan, “I want to thank the governor of Arizona because she’s awakened a sleeping giant.” Meanwhile, anti-immigrant zealot and commentator Lou Dobbs, dismissed it all as a bunch of “political theater.”

— Thorne Dreyer / The Rag Blog

‘Si se puede.’ May Day demonstrators in Austin. Photo by Carlos Lowry / The Rag Blog.

‘Estamos en la lucha’
May Day in Austin

By Alice Embree / The Rag Blog / May 2, 2010

For the first time, my unprofessional crowd estimates were lower than those reported by the Austin American-Statesmen. “Almost 10,000 gather at Capitol to protest controversial Arizona law.”

Austin’s 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.

Arizona’s 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 Austin’s community as well as communities across the nation.

Organizers at the Austin Immigrant Rights Coalition (AIRC) — www.airc.org — 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.

Not sure. Let’s see your profile. Photo by Alice Embree / The Rag Blog.

Speakers, in Spanish and English, singers, and Aztec conchero dancers highlighted the Austin rally. The Rag Blog’s David Holmes Morris has the final word. Photos by Carlos Lowry / The Rag Blog.

The Rag Blog

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11 Responses to ‘We Are All Immigrants’ : 10,000 at Austin May Day March

  1. Anonymous says:

    ….we are all immigrants…???? Nope, not if we were born in America!

  2. Benito says:

    Eye of the Beholder: I will tell you what I have seen these last few days I saw our beloved Stars and Stripes flag, the flag from Mexico and some flags from other countries. I saw children, parents and grand parents together in solidarity, my people the working class, they may not be sophisticated but they got the message heard. From publish reports the demonstrations included both US citizens and undocumented workers. This brought me a smile because I always enjoy seeing brothers helping brothers.

    This reminds me of a parable from the good book where a Levite and Priest come upon a man who fell among thieves and they both individually passed by and didn’t stop to help him. Finally a man of another race came by, he got down from his beast, decided not to be compassionate by proxy and got down with the injured man, administered first aid, and helped the man in need. Jesus ended up saying, this was the good man, this was the great man, because he had the capacity to project the “I” into the “thou,” and to be concerned about his brother.

    You see, the Levite and the Priest were afraid, they asked themselves, “If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?”

    But then the Good Samaritan came by. And he reversed the question: “If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?”

    As I see it, we should stand-up against a law is passed in anger and is against our Constitution/ Bill of Rights/ Declaration of Independence and is targets a specific group.

    God bless all my brothers and sister that stood side by side with our brothers and sisters in need. When our judgment comes I know God will not discriminate by country of origin as men do.

  3. Poet says:

    Anony: You would be correct if your come from the Indian Nations (Native Americans, indigenous peoples from North America), if not, then yes you, your parents, your grandparents are immigrants, do not fight it, give in.

  4. Mariann says:

    Does anybody know how many people marched in San Antonio? I haven’t seen that reported and surely that march, also, was huge?

  5. What is fueling the protests and violence is outright disinformation. Ms Embree has done some of that herself in this article. … The broad strokes of that recent legislation make the mere suspicion of undocumented status cause for questioning and detention… That is factually incorrect. Immigration status can only be questioned if authorities are questioning someone as part of another offence. No one can be stopped simply because they “look” hispanic. I cant blame Alice, Mr Obama spread the same lie about a family “being questioned as you go for ice cream” in a recent speech. I am happy to send that link if you cant find it yourself.

    I was also at the rally. There was an imposter there acting badly and passing himself off as a tea party member. I alerted the state troopers that were patrolling on bikes and soon enough, they observed his behavior and took him away. Both of the officers that I asked, estimated the crowd at 2000-2500. I have pictures of the crowd at the capital and you can easily see that there wasnt anywhere close to 10,000.

    While it was a relatively peaceful event in austin, I find it interesting that not a single rag blogger has written about the violence at other recent protests. You certainly had no problem writing about supposed violence all year long whenever tea partiers got together. Breaking windows, check, left wing activists. Setting fires, check, left wing activists. Throwing bottles and other objects, check, left wing activists. Nazi images, check, left wing activists.

  6. Didier says:

    There is a imposter acting badly here. He‘s passing himself off as a good citizen. Where are the state troopers ?

  7. Didier says:

    The fact is that there is an ongoing struggle between two visions and you’re are on the wrong side. What the hell are you doing here ?
    Alice is a sister. People like Benito are brothers. The Rag , like other places, is forming a part of a community. If you don’t like it, leave it!

  8. Anonymous says:

    You are right it is a community of like minds trying to help each other find the way. Not the dissonance of those opposed to the community.

  9. I agree with Didier and he said it pretty well.

    What the hell are you doing here? That is exactly what I ask of illegal immigrants.

    The Rag , like other places, is forming a part of a community. If you don’t like it, leave it!
    Exactly! America is and has been a nation of laws. If illegas dont like living under our laws, then leave!

    Well said Didier.

  10. Z says:

    We are immigrants, really? So I guess there was a person that just appeared in Italy, China, Greece, Pakistan, Greenland, etc, but there were no persons in America. The whole world was populated overnight with country borders. It’s like an Atlas was given to everyone, but America was titled Land of Immigrants. This is how stupid this argument is. People have been moving around forever, but when countries were formed they instituted laws. How many Americans are allowed into China, Mexico? Lawbreaking people have a tendency to continue to break laws. Shame on anyone that does not support enforcement of immigration laws. You will soon have a country that will be taken over by law breakers. And good luck to you then.

  11. Velveteen says:

    The statement “we are all immigrants” doesn’t refer to the generations who were born here, it refers to the fact that unless you’re a full-blooded First Nations [Native] american person, your ancestors emigrated here from Europe, Africa or another continent. It’s meant to show solidarity with people who are in their first generation of doing the same, and that rather than locking our borders to turn them away we should welcome them, especially considering many of our ancestors forced their way onto this land by stealing it from and killing the first peoples here.

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