May Day rally in NYC for workers’, immigrants’ rights

Lucy Pagoada, from Queens, at a May Day rally in Union Square sponsored by the May 1st Coalition, Thursday, May 1, 2014.
Lucy Pagoada, from Queens, at a May Day rally in Union Square sponsored by the May 1st Coalition, Thursday, May 1, 2014. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Araya Diaz

Thousands of protesters rallying for workers’ and immigrants’ rights marched from Union Square to City Hall and Zuccotti Park Thursday for a May Day March.

The rallies were organized by a number of different groups, chief among them the Labor Rights, Immigrant Rights, and Jobs for All Coalition.

A small crowd assembled on the south side of Union Square at noon, growing in size until about 5 p.m. when protesters began their march down Broadway to join  low-wage and immigrants’ rights protesters stationed outside of City Hall.

A stream of union heads and nonprofit directors spoke from a stage in front of hundreds of laborers, teachers, and immigration advocates on the sidewalk by City Hall Park.

“New York City is at the forefront in the fight for better working conditions,”  City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said to the crowds during a speech outside City Hall.

The City Council is behind you,” she said.

City Comptroller Scott Stringer, meanwhile,  suggested that the new administration in City Hall would mark a turn for workers’ rights and affordability in the city.
“May Day is big because it speaks to the aspirations of our city and our country,” he said.

A number of unions — including DC37 the city’s largest municipal union — were on hand.

Unlike past May Day marches in the city, Thursday’s rallies were relatively peaceful. There were no arrests according to the NYPD; in 2012’s march there was 30. Last year there were roughly five arrested, according to the The New York Times.

“Our communities are under attack,” said Steve Choi, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition, citing deportation and the denied economic justice. “When immigrants and labor are united, we will fight for immigration reform.”

Speakers from various organizations galvanized crowds at Union Square early in the afternoon. “This system of capitalism in America isn’t working,” said Kaylee Knowles, 23, who spoke to crowds at around 1:30 p.m. over a loudspeaker as a member of FIST, a Marxist youth organization.

At Union Square groups like The Socialist Appeal were selling copies of Karl Marx’s “Communist Manifesto” for $2 and passing out fliers. Live funk music and songs like Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power” and Bob Marley’s “Get up, Stand up” provided a backdrop for the demonstrations.

People gathered for various reasons, however many agreed that each issue was connected as part of a bigger problem. “Everything goes hand in hand, immigration rights are workers’ rights,” said Sherry Finkelmen, a volunteer with the May 1 Coalition and People’s Power Assembly.

The concept of an international worker’s day on May 1t was born in the United States more than 200 years ago. Rallies have been organized by the May 1st Coalition in Union Square since 2006.

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