Tag Archives: May Day

May Day: Demonstrators deliver distress call

Marchers in Milwaukee marked May Day by delivering a distress call — strong and loud — in the voices of thousands raised outside the Milwaukee County Courthouse.

The May Day rally and march, coordinated annually by the immigrant rights group Voces de la Frontera, took place on May 1, beginning at the nonprofit’s headquarters on South Fifth Street. From there, marchers went to the courthouse.

They demanded nationwide immigration reform and called on Republican Gov. Scott Walker to withdraw from a 26-state federal suit blocking executive-branch immigration relief.

They demanded fair and equal pay and the right to organize on what has long been celebrated as a worker’s memorial day.

And, with the march taking place just days after rioting in Baltimore following the death a black man in police custody, they demanded an end to police violence and action to address the lack of opportunity in the nation’s poorest neighborhoods.

They marched in solidarity, shouldering banners and sharing causes.

“I’m marching for my family,” said José Flores, a longtime member of Voces de la Frontera. “We are here to tell Gov. Walker to stop blocking executive action on immigration and to let him know that we want immigration reform with a path to citizenship.”

Walker has recently referred to such a path as “amnesty,” which he opposes.

Christine Neumann-Ortiz, now Voces’ executive director, addressed the crowd, rallying the marchers to demand racial and economic justice. “We have seen in Milwaukee and Baltimore and other cities African-Americans and their allies rising up against racist police violence, and we are proud to stand with their struggle. We are proud to stand with Maria Hamilton and Elvira Arellano, two mothers fighting for justice for all families.”

Maria Hamilton is the mother of Dontre Hamilton, an unarmed black man killed by a Milwaukee police officer one year ago in Red Arrow Park. He was shot 14 times, including in the back, during a scuffle that followed a pat down that violated MPD procedure.

Maria Hamilton told the marchers, “It’s so beautiful to see people of so many nationalities here together.”

Arellano, an immigrant rights leader with an international reputation, told marchers, “I want to say thank you to the U.S. citizens who are here with us today fighting deportations.”

May Day tradition

The Milwaukee May Day Solidarity March for Immigrant and Worker Rights coincided with more than 20 other marches on May 1, which is International Workers’ Day and the anniversary of the bloody 1886 Haymarket Riot in Chicago.

May Day marches have been held for more than a century, but the focus broadened in the mid-2000s to include demands for immigrant rights. In 2006, hundreds of thousands of demonstrators joined in protests across the United States.

This year, with the unrest in Baltimore and solidarity protests in other cities, the marchers broadened the message and the demands still farther.

“Man, it’s all related,” said marcher Deacon Davis of Milwaukee. “We cannot divorce the brutalities of our police department from the brutalities of our governor and Congress and the brutalities of big business.”

In the days before the May Day actions, Wisconsinites held other labor-related tributes, including organizing Workers’ Memorial Day gatherings on April 28 in La Crosse and Madison.

And two days after the May Day marches, another traditional observance took place in Milwaukee commemorating the anniversary of the Bay View Massacre on May 5, 1886. That morning, after four days of massive worker demonstrations for an eight-hour workday, about 1,500 workers marched toward the Bay View Rolling Mills and came upon the State Militia, called out by the governor and armed with guns ready to fire. The marchers were ordered to stop about 200 yards from the mill, and, when they did not, the militia killed seven and wounded others.

The memorial took place on May 3 at the State Historical Marker for the mills at South Superior Street and East Russell Avenue on the lakefront, with historians, labor activists, artists, entertainers and community members remembering those shot by a state militia called out to squash a workers campaign.

The Wisconsin Labor History Society offered a remembrance and the Milwaukee Public Theatre and Milwaukee Mask and Puppet Theatre staged a re-enactment.

Wisconsin Jobs Now also had a presence at the ceremony, where speakers talked about challenges working people face and musicians offered a tribute to the late Larry Penn, a folk singer and longtime Bay View resident who regularly attended the event.

Wisconsin May Day solidarity march set for May 1

The National Day of Action for Immigrant Rights — Wisconsin May Day Solidarity March for Immigrant and Worker Rights is set for 11 a.m. on May 1 in Milwaukee.

An announcement from Voces de la Frontera said there will be a rally at 11 a.m. at Voces de la Frontera, 1027 S. Fifth St., Milwaukee, followed by a march to the Milwaukee County Courthouse at 10th and Wells and then a closing program.

Organizers expect Elvira Arellano, the internationally recognized immigrant rights leader to join thousands of student, immigrant, labor and faith community activists and elected officials to attend the action to demand:

• Implementation of administrative immigration relief now.

• Immigration reform with a path to citizenship.

• Protections for public schools.

• The freedom to organize in the workplace.

• Living wages for all.

For more, go to Voces de la Frontera on Facebook.

Voces de la Frontera challenges Walker on immigration

Voces de la Frontera, a leading immigrant rights group in Wisconsin, called Gov. Scott Walker’s latest position on immigration shameful and slammed the presidential hopeful for anti-immigrant remarks.

In an interview with ultra-conservative talk show host Glenn Beck on April 21, Walker repeated his recent claim that he once supported “amnesty” for undocumented immigrants but no longer does and that immigrants who entered the country illegally should leave.

Walker also said legal immigration must also be limited, citing right-wing U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama as an inspiration.

“The next president and the next Congress need to make decisions about a legal immigration system that’s based on, first and foremost, on protecting American workers and American wages,” Walker said. “Because the more I’ve talked to folks — I’ve talked to Sen. Sessions and others out there, but it is a fundamentally lost issue by many in elected positions today — is what is this doing for American workers looking for jobs, what is this doing to wages, and we need to have that be at the forefront of our discussion going forward.”

Christine Neumann-Ortiz, executive director of Voces de la Frontera, responded, “It is shameful for Gov. Walker to continue his flip-flop to the extreme right when it comes to justice for immigrants and working families. By announcing his support for restrictions on legal immigration and aligning himself with Sen. Sessions, the leader of the nativist wing of the Republican Party, Gov. Walker has showed his true colors. It is ridiculous for this governor to advance restrictions on immigration as a measure to protect U.S. workers, when his own actions demonstrate his disregard for the plight of working class families in Wisconsin.”

She continued, “His governorship has been a disaster for working families in Wisconsin, immigrant and U.S.-born alike and no amount of trying to pit communities against one another can divert attention from his shameful record.”

Voces de la Frontera, which is based in Milwaukee, is organizing its May Day rally on May 1 and, in the statement, urged people to join the march for immigration reform and to call out Walker.

“This May 1, we call on community members to join us in marching to demand the implementation of administrative relief now, passage of immigration reform with a path to citizenship, funding for public education, living wages and the restoration of collective bargaining rights for all workers,” said Neumann-Ortiz.

May Day marchers to protest deportations, family separations

Activists for immigration reform will march to the Milwaukee County Courthouse on May 1 — May Day — to call on the president to issue an executive action on deportation relief and to announce a campaign to hold Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke responsible for separating immigrant families.

A news release from the grassroots group Voces de la Frontera said marchers will assemble at about 10 a.m. at the Voces office, 1027 S. Fifth St. From there, marchers will go down Fifth Street, cross the Sixth Street bridge, and head to the courthouse, 901 N. Ninth Street. A rally will take place at noon.

The Milwaukee event is part of a national campaign taking place in more than 100 cities.

“Our families cannot wait another day,” said Christine Neumann-Ortiz, Voces de la Frontera’s executive director. “Given Republican obstructionism in the House to move legalization forward, the president can and must use his executive authority to stop the suffering now — as he has done for passage of living wage and deferred action for immigrant youth. He can also shut down costly enforcement programs such as Wisconsin’s so-called ‘secure communities’ and grant legal status for those who would qualify for immigration reform.

“On May Day, we’re taking this message to straight to the corridors of power to demand that not one more Wisconsin family be torn apart due to cruel and senseless laws that the majority of the country agrees need to change.”

On the Web…


On the front | Voces de la Frontera marches on

The marches take activists across bridges, down streets, through parks, along the lakefront, around the Capitol, into the halls of government.

Always the goal for the activists with Wisconsin-based Voces de la Frontera is to pave a path to citizenship – for young dreamers and also for the adults in their families.

“Our huge priority this year is to fight for federal immigration reform, forge a path to citizenship for the 11 million people in this country who are still living in the shadows so they can come into the full light of day,” said Voces executive director Christine Neumann-Ortiz. “That’s long overdue for immigrants.”

President Barack Obama has indicated the dream may not be deferred much longer. Immigration reform is a priority in his second term, which he symbolically began on Jan. 21, taking his public oath of office on the west steps of the Capitol. In his inaugural, he said, “Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity.”

Wisconsin voice

Voces, founded in 2001, “fights for the rights of low-income and immigrant workers and students through education, advocacy and organizing.” In addition to the 501(c)(3) group, there is Voces de la Frontera Action, a 501(c)(4) group, and YES!, the Youth Empowered in the Struggle social justice group, with chapters in Wisconsin high schools and universities.

In 2012, Voces was at the forefront of the campaign to protect voting rights in Wisconsin, including challenges to the GOP-driven voter ID law. At the national level, the Obama administration responded to calls from grassroots groups such as Voces to defer deportations of immigrant youths. Voces also supported and promoted workers at Palermo’s Pizza, who went on strike in June for union recognition and continue to picket. The company, one of the largest producers of frozen pizza in the U.S., retaliated against unionizing efforts by intimidating and then firing immigrant workers.

Those efforts helped Neumann-Ortiz earn a place on Huffington Post’s list of “50 young progressive activists who are changing America.” Voces, meanwhile, secured a position as “Most Valuable Grassroots Group” in The Nation’s 2012 honor roll, which also included U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin. The Nation said Voces “has allied with antiwar and gay rights groups and placed itself at the center of the struggle to defend public workers and teachers. With the NAACP, it successfully sued to overturn Wisconsin’s voter ID law and got another judge to overturn a redistricting plan that discriminated against Latinos. But the primary focus of Voces is on the toughest fights: organizing and defending immigrant workers. Its campaign on behalf of Palermo Pizza workers forged a strategic alliance with the United Steelworkers and won the endorsement of the AFL-CIO for a boycott of the company’s products.”

Voces also has come to the attention of right-wing media, specifically shock jock Mark Belling, who in recent months has attacked Racine’s annual Martin Luther King Day celebration specifcally because of Voces’ role in organizing it. 

Student Alexia Gates, a senior at Horlick High School in Racine, said Belling cost organizers thousands of dollars in donations and formal support from the school district, the United Way and the Racine Community Foundation. But Belling couldn’t stop the celebration, which included community service efforts, workshops and a march for peace and justice.

“We talked to churches, talked to local businesses, talked to individuals and our schools and community as a whole,” Gates said. “Although we’ve been through so much, we were still able to make this event as successful as it has been for the past three years.”

On King Day, about 500 postcards were distributed calling on WISN station manager Jerry Bott to take Belling off the air “for the harm he’s caused our community and democracy.”

And although the Racine Unified School District chose not to collaborate or support the King Day events, some school officials and teachers attended the programs. The theme was “the students united will never be divided,” Gates said. “And we know that is what King would have wanted.”

“In spite of Belling’s hateful rhetoric and bullying, our young leaders and adults are showing more courage and conviction in honoring Dr. King’s legacy. In fact, Belling might be offering them the best example of why getting involved is so important in the first place,” Neumann-Ortiz said of the King Day event, which was supported by the local teachers’ union and the local NAACP.

In its work,  Voces has built a broad, progressive agenda – peace, justice, education rights, LGBT rights, worker rights and immigrant rights. And it has stood in solidarity with other progressive groups in the state, including Equality Wisconsin, an LGBT civil rights group.

“It’s a symbiotic relationship,” said EW executive director Jason Burns, a contributing columnist to WiG.

Voces turns out activists for Equality Wisconsin efforts and EW does likewise. 

EW, for example, has marched for immigrant rights in Voces’ annual May 1 event and will do so again this May Day.  And Voces campaigned for domestic partnership rights and against anti-gay marriage drives in the state.

“There are so many parallels,” Neumann-Ortiz said of the LGBT and immigrant rights movements. And, of course, there is a blending of constituencies.

“The communities intersect. There is a need to have strong protection against hate crimes. There are issues around workplace rights,” she said, adding that in the fight for immigration reform is a fight for how families are defined and a struggle to keep families together.

“We have common ground and common goals,” Burns said.

Solidarity for citizenship

With the oaths taken and the new Congress seated, Obama has indicated he wants quick action on immigration reform. 

How quick? A bipartisan group of senators is already writing a bill that could be introduced by March and likely will include a path to citizenship, as well as an increase in the number of visas and probably a guest-worker program.

Lawmakers in both parties cannot avoid the issue without peril – Latinos represent the youngest and fastest-growing voting bloc in the nation. The president won re-election with 65 percent of the Latino vote in Wisconsin and 71 percent nationwide.

“The president’s move to provide relief to hundreds of thousands of undocumented youth through deferred action was instrumental in the remarkable voter turnout that we saw,” said Neumann-Ortiz.

Support for comprehensive reform comes from a coalition of labor, faith, law enforcement, civil rights and business groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. In a recent speech on the state of business, the chamber’s president called for an overhaul of immigration law, saying the “door to the American dream must always remain open.”

Broad support among voters also exists. A bipartisan poll released in mid-January said four out of five voters support reform ensuring that undocumented immigrants have a chance to work toward citizenship. The survey commissioned by the Service Employees International Union, Americans Voice Education Fund and National Immigration Forum showed support at 83 percent among Republicans, 91 percent among Democrats and 82 percent among Independents.

“The results of this poll confirm that Americans of all political stripes agree that the current patchwork of immigration policies is not working for our nation’s best interests,” NIF board member Jeb Bush Jr. said.

Such broad support may help to explain why Wisconsin’s GOP, looking ahead to the 2014 and 2016 elections, apparently has backed off anti-immigrant legislation modeled on Arizona’s controversial law.

Onward in 2013

By May 1, when Voces holds its annual march and rally in Milwaukee, activists should know the specifics of proposed reform – and where Wisconsin’s congressional members stand on any legislation.

Milwaukee’s May Day marches often are among the largest in the nation. More than 70,000 people attended the 2006 march in Milwaukee, largely a response to U.S. Rep. James Sensenbrenner’s campaign to bar immigrant workers from getting driver’s licenses. In 2012, an estimated 20,000 people marched.

This year’s May Day event will begin taking shape on Jan. 26, when the organization’s members gather at Ascension Lutheran Church, 1236 S. Layton Blvd., Milwaukee, for an annual assembly. Supporters of Voces’ political action group also will gather that day, with a likely focus on the April elections. For the November election, Voces Action organized 250 volunteers to mobilize voters for Obama and Baldwin, with a focus on 22 Milwaukee wards.

“Every year we have an annual assembly where members come together to elect our steering committee and have a discussion about what our priorities are going to be, about strategies to move forward,” Neumann-Ortiz said.

Looking forward, Gates said, “One thing I hope to see the group accomplish this year is immigration reform. We’ve been in this fight for too long now and it’s time for a change. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. Dr. King. …I can’t stop and won’t stop until justice is served and I will continue to fight for what’s right.”

May Day actions taking place coast to coast

May Day protests may disrupt the morning commute in major U.S. cities today as labor, immigration and Occupy activists rally support on the international workers’ holiday.

Demonstrations, strikes and acts of civil disobedience are planned around the country, including the most visible organizing effort by anti-Wall Street groups since Occupy encampments came down in the fall.

While protesters are backing away from a call to block San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, bridge district ferry workers said they’ll strike to shut down ferry service, which brings commuters from Marin County to the city. Ferry workers have been in contract negotiations for a year and have been working without a contract since July 2011 in a dispute over health care coverage, the Inlandboatmen’s Union said.

A coalition of bridge and bus workers said they will honor the picket line, which may target an area near the bridge’s toll plaza. Occupy activists from San Francisco and Oakland are expected to join the rally.

“We ask supporters to stand with us at strike picket lines on May Day and to keep the bridge open,” said Alex Tonisson, an organizer and co-chair of the Golden Gate Bridge Labor Coalition.

In anticipation of the strike, the agency that operates the Golden Gate Bridge and related public transportation systems canceled the morning ferries from Marin County to San Francisco and urged regular riders to make alternate travel plans.

Police say they are working with other area law enforcement agencies and have a plan in place for potential disruptions. They would not discuss specifics.

Across the bay in Oakland, where police and Occupy protesters have often clashed, officers are preparing for a long day as hundreds of “General Strike” signs have sprouted across town.

In New York City, where the first Occupy camp was set up and where large protests brought some of the earliest attention – and mass arrests – to the movement, leaders plan a variety of events, including picketing, a march through Manhattan and other “creative disruptions against the corporations who rule our city.”

Organizers have called for protesters to block one or more bridges or tunnels connecting Manhattan, the city’s economic engine, to New Jersey and other parts of the city.

The Occupy movement began in September with a small camp in a lower Manhattan plaza that quickly grew to include hundreds of protesters using the tent city as their home base. More than 700 people were arrested Oct. 1 as they tried to cross the Brooklyn Bridge.

The city broke the camp up in November, citing sanitary and other concerns, but the movement has held smaller events and protests periodically since then.

Elsewhere on the West Coast, Occupy Seattle has called for people to rally at a park near downtown. Mayor Mike McGinn has warned residents there could be traffic delays and has said city officials have evidence – including graffiti and posters – that some groups plan to “commit violence, damage property and disrupt peaceful free speech activity.”

In Los Angeles, Occupy is organizing a daylong “people’s power and bike caravan” that will start from the four cardinal directions around the city in the morning, converging on downtown LA’s financial district in the mid afternoon for an approximately 90-minute protest. The themes of the marches are foreclosures and police brutality.

In a website statement, Occupy LA promised the event will be “city-paralyzing” and “carnivalesque” with en route actions including a food giveaway in a South Los Angeles park, and mini-rallies outside the Veterans’ Affairs and Bank of America buildings in West Los Angeles.

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May Day Solidarity March set for Milwaukee

Equality Wisconsin is encouraging its supporters to join in the May Day Solidarity March set for April 29.

The march steps off at 12:30 p.m. outside Voces De La Frontera at Fifth Street and Washington in Milwaukee. Marchers will go to Veteran’s Park for a rally that includes keynote speeches by U.S. Reps. Gwen Moore, D-Milwaukee, and Luis Gutierrez, D-Chicago.

“Voces De La Frontera has always stood by Equality Wisconsin and let’s make sure we stand by them,” said Jason Burns, EW’s executive director.

Billboard award winners Kinto Sol will headline at the rally, held in concert with May Day Solidarity events across the United States. The day of action is for immigrant and worker rights.

“On April 29th community groups, politicians and individuals representing the rights of immigrants, labor, public education, faith groups, civil rights, LGBT, Occupy and many others will unite in solidarity,” VDLF said.

The marchers will be:

• Demanding a stop to the separation of families with deportations.

• Calling for good jobs.

• Opposing cuts to Badgercare and public education.

• Demanding restoration of driver’s licenses and in-state tuition for immigrants.

• Defending voter rights.

March organizers are encouraging people to volunteer to put up posters, handing out fliers and spreading the word on the Web.

Read WiG’s report on Latino support for LGBT equality in the current issue and on the web at www.wisconsingazette.com.

Download a PDF of the current issue of Wisconsin Gazette and join our Facebook community.