Over 1.5 million people took part in May Day demonstrations to support immigrant rights in one of the largest days of protest in the country’s history. Across the nation immigrants refused to go to work or school in what was dubbed “A Day Without Immigrants.” Major demonstrations were held in dozens of cities across the country. In Chicago organizers said up to 700,000 people took to the streets. Over a half million marched in Los Angeles. In Denver, at least 75,000 people — about one-sixth of the city’s population — participated in a march on the state capitol. 50,000 people gathered in a series of protests in Florida. In New York City, over 100,000 marched from Union Square down Broadway. Thousands of businesses closed for at least part of the day in solidarity. Students walked out of classes across the country. In Los Angeles about one in every four students was absent. In Chicago as many as one-third of students didn’t go to school. The Associated Press reported at least 1.1 million people took part in the protests but that estimate was based solely on police accounts. Organizers in several cities said the turnout would have been even larger but many undocumented immigrants were afraid to come out following recent immigration raids.
In Bolivia, President Evo Morales marked May Day by announcing the nationalization of the country’s natural gas fields and refineries. Morales accused foreign companies of looting Bolivia’s natural resources. “The Bolivian people’s vote was not in vain,” Morales said. “The time has come, the awaited day, a historic day in which Bolivia retakes absolute control of our natural resources.” Bolivian President Evo Morales threatened to evict any foreign company in six months if it does not renegotiate its contract and hand over control of production to the government.
Meanwhile in Mexico, the Zapatista leader Marcos spent May Day marching with thousands of others to show solidarity to the undocumented immigrants protesting in the United States. “”(We call on) those who mobilized against the war in Iraq, to the inheritors of Emma Goldman, John Reed, Julius Rosenberg, Malcom X, Martin Luther King, the Indian people of North America who are tied to us with ties of pain and rebellion and all of the Chicano community, for supporting this workers’ fight,” Marcos said.
Former Secretary of State Colin Powell has admitted he opposed a key part of Donald Rumsfeld’s plan to invade Iraq. In an interview on British television, Powell said he personally advised Rumsfeld and General Tommy Franks that they were not sending enough troops into Iraq. Powell said “They were anticipating a different kind of immediate aftermath of the fall of Baghdad; it turned out to be not exactly as they had anticipated.”
Meanwhile President Bush announced on Monday that the formation of a new Iraqi government marks a turning point in the war. His comments came three years to the day after he proclaimed that major combat operations were over while standing under a banner that read Mission Accomplished. On Monday he spoke briefly on the White Hose lawn while standing next to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, both of whom had just returned from Iraq. “We believe this is a turning point for the Iraqi citizens and it’s a new chapter in our partnership,” Bush said. “The secretaries began building this new partnership during their trip. In other words, the Iraqi leaders saw that we are committed to helping them succeed.” This doesn’t mark the first time the president has declared Iraq has reached a turning point. He did so back in June 2004 when the occupying U.S. forces announced they would transfer sovereignty back to the Iraqi people. Bush also said the 2005 election in Iraq would mark a turning point.
In Washington, the former Inspector General for the Department of Homeland Security has admitted he was pressured to tone down criticism of the agency in the months before the 2004 election. The official, Clark Kent Ervin, was hired to serve as an independent watchdog inside the agency. But he has admitted to ABC News that then Secretary Tom Ridge intimidated him, stared him down and forced him to back off on issuing critical reports on the state of homeland security ahead of the election.
In Florida, a federal judge has sentenced the Palestinian professor and activist Sami Al Arian to another 18 months in prison. Al-Arian has been at the center of one of the most closely watched — and controversial — post 9/11 prosecutions. He was arrested over three years ago and accused of being a leader of the Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad. In December a jury acquitted him of eight of the 17 federal charges against him and the jury deadlocked on the rest. The verdict was a major defeat for Bush administration prosecutors. Last month Al-Arian signed a plea agreement with prosecutors to plead guilty to a lesser version of one of the charges and be deported.
A delegation from Vermont went to Capitol Hill on Monday to deliver resolutions passed by six Vermont towns calling for the impeachment of President Bush. “The reason we’re doing this is because as citizens of the USA we are honor bound to uphold the laws of the land, to defend the constitution of the US,” said Vermont bookstore owner Ellen Tenney. “When we witness what we believe in our hearts and know in our minds to be lawless acts committed against the great people of this country we must stand up and speak out.” Meanwhile there are now 36 members of the House who have officially co-sponsored a resolution to begin impeachment proceedings against President Bush. The latest lawmakers signing on are Jesse Jackson Jr. of Illinois and Chaka Fattah of Pennsylvania.
In political news, former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani traveled to Iowa on Monday and said he was seriously considering running for president in 2008. Iowa is a politically important state because it holds the first presidential caucus. On Monday Giuliani met with a number of top Republican leaders including the Iowa state chair of the Bush-Cheney campaign in 2004.
In Florida, the state legislature has passed a bill to require that county jails help prisoners file applications for them to regain their right to vote once they have paid for their crimes. Under a Jim Crow era law, the state strips felons of their right to vote, serve on a jury, hold public office or qualify for various occupation licenses. But felons are allowed to ask the Clemency Board to restore their rights.
And the government of Puerto Rico has been shut down after it ran out of money following a dispute between lawmakers and the island’s governor. Puerto Rico”s sixteen hundred state schools have been shut, leaving half a million students and forty thousand teachers with no classes. Nearly one hundred thousand government workers have been temporarily left without jobs. We’ll have more on the shutdown later in the show.
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