By Mike Andrew
PSARA members joined a crowd estimated at a thousand for Seattle’s annual May Day immigrant rights march and rally.
While May Day has its historic roots in the struggle for the eight-hour day in the United States, it has always been an international workers’ day, and Seattle’s marchers joined with tens of thousands of working people in other countries to mark the day.
In Athens, thousands of Greeks protesting government austerity measures marched to Syntagma Square in front of the parliament building in the center of the city.
They were joined by tens of thousands in Madrid, also protesting government-backed austerity and depression-level unemployment. Huge rallies also took place in Paris, Rome, and Turin.
In Hong Kong, about 5,000 workers marched demanding a rise in the minimum wage.
In Jakarta, Indonesia, more than 9,000 workers marched to the state palace calling for better pay and job protection.
In Manila, some 8,000 workers rallied near the Malacanang palace to call for pay increases.
Seattle’s march and rally were organized by El Comite pro Amnistia General y Justicia Social and endorsed by the Martin Luther King County Labor Council and a number of Seattle area unions and social justice groups.
The march demanded “Immigration reform now!” along with “human rights, labor rights, and access to education for everyone.”
Beginning from Judkins Park at 20th Place S and S Dearborn Street, the marchers proceeded to the Federal Building downtown for a rally.
As always, the march was remarkable for its diversity, with priests, ministers, and imams joining union members, retirees, and unemployed workers of every conceivable nationality.
En route they were joined on 4th Avenue by marchers from an Occupy Seattle rally earlier in the day, swelling the crowd to more than 2,000.
According to El Comite organizers, the immigrant rights march was smaller than in previous years, because of police warnings that May Day events organized by other groups might turn violent.
In fact, about noon that day, a group of about 50 so-called “black bloc” protesters split off from an otherwise peaceful Occupy Seattle march and broke windows at the Federal Courthouse and several downtown banks and businesses.
At least eight people were subsequently arrested by Seattle police.
There were noticeably fewer families in attendance, organizers said, and many immigrants felt intimidated by the heavy police mobilization occasioned by the “black bloc” vandalism downtown.
“It’s unfortunate now that when people think of the May Day march, they’ll remember the violence rather than the ongoing hope for immigration reform,” El Comite organizer Jorge Quiroga said afterwards.