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Immigrant Workers Lead Thousands in NYC May Day Protests: "Without Our Labor, the City Cannot Move"

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Around the world, millions of workers took to the streets Monday for May Day, also known as International Workers’ Day. In the United States, the marches were led by immigrant workers and their allies, drawing comparisons to the massive May Day 2006 marches when millions of immigrants protested nationwide. In California, tens of thousands of people marched in the Bay Area, as immigrant workers refused to go to work and students walked out of class. In Oakland, four activists were arrested after chaining themselves together to blockade the entrance to the Alameda County Administration Building. In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, more than 30,000 people marched to demand the governor fire Milwaukee County Sheriff Dave Clarke, block anti-immigrant legislation and return driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants. At least 140 businesses were shut down across Milwaukee. We air highlights from May Day protests in New York, including the voices of striking workers at B&H Video.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Around the world, millions of workers took to the streets Monday for May Day, also known as International Workers’ Day. In the United States, the marches were led by immigrant workers and their allies, drawing comparisons to the massive May Day 2006, when millions of immigrants protested nationwide. A series of protests were held in New York. The first of the day’s protests was a picket line outside B&H Photo Video, the nation’s largest independent retailer of photo and video equipment. Hundreds of B&H workers staged a one-day strike to oppose a plan to relocate more than 300 jobs from Brooklyn to New Jersey. Democracy Now!’s Charina Nadura, John Hamilton and Andre Lewis filed this report.

PROTESTERS: B&H is going down! New York is a union town!

ARMANDO GIRÓN: [translated] My name is Armando Girón, and I’ve been working at B&H for nine years now. We are very concerned, because the company wants to move to New Jersey, and the majority of my co-workers and I live here in New York—in the Bronx, Queens and in Brooklyn.

RAMÓN SERRANO: [translated] We are fighting here to stop the company from moving, because if they do so, we, more than 300 employees, will be put out on the streets. They are planning to move to a place far, far away, where there is no transportation.

HÉCTOR FIGUEROA: I’m Héctor Figueroa, president of Local 32BJ. Here is the thing. Today is May 1st. And we all know that immigrant rights are worker rights. No more deportations! No more breaking families! We are here, and we are going to stay, are going to fight, because we work really hard! We feed the American public. We take care of their children. We clean their offices. We tend to their seniors. We are the ones who are making America strong! And we are here to stay!

PROTESTER: What do we want?

PROTESTERS: Justice!

PROTESTER: When do we want it?

PROTESTER: Now!

PROTESTER: What do we want?

PROTESTERS: Justice!

PROTESTER: When do we want it?

PROTESTER: Now!

PROTESTER: If we don’t get it?

PROTESTERS: Shut it down!

PROTESTER: If we don’t get it?

PROTESTERS: Shut it down!

XIMENA BUSTAMANTE: My name is a Ximena Bustamante. I am from International Women’s Strike. We are striking to reclaim the rights of all workers, but, in particular, of immigrant workers. And we are striking to make very clear that this city moves because of immigrant labor, particularly because of women’s immigrant labor. We believe that it’s very necessary to show everyone that without their labor, this city cannot move.

ORGANIZER: So when we march today, we march, and we protect one another. We keep one another safe. This is not a permitted march.

ANGELINA CÁCERES: [translated] My name is Angelina Cáceres, and I work at the Golden Steps cooperative, a group of immigrant women trying to make their businesses thrive and, at the same time, trying to help the country’s economy. We are a group of women fighting to make a living, to get our families moving forward.

AGUNDA OKEYO: Hi. My name is Agunda Okeyo. I’m a native New Yorker, originally from Kenya. I’m an immigrant. I’m an activist, an organizer, and I’m coming here with my friends, who—we’ve co-founded a campaign called Hater Free NYC. It’s a localized, creative action boycott targeting the current Trump administration, including the Cabinet. Think of this as a day where people can come together and recognize the history of America in a more honest sense and the fact that workers’ rights are in everyone’s interest.

PROTESTER: All right, NYU! Yeah!

ALEJANDRO OLIVARES: [translated] My name is Alejandro Oliveras. My organization is Brandworkers. I want to send a message to Donald Trump. We come here to work. We are good people and not criminals, as he says. I think that that is not true. And this country is a country of immigrants, built by immigrants with their work and sacrifice. I hope that his administration makes changes, because the current situation is unfair for us immigrants.

PROTESTERS: The people, united, will never be defeated! The people, united, will never be defeated!

ANH TRAN: My name is Anh Tran. I teach at Baruch College. I’m here at May Day supporting CUNY adjuncts. Adjuncts are part-time workers in they CUNY system. We’re faculty who teach—it actually could be full-time teaching, but we get paid as part-time workers. And so, we are severely exploited in terms of not being able to know whether we’ll have a job from semester to semester. You can see how impossible it is to plan, you know, paying your rent, if you don’t know whether you’re going to have a job the next semester.

NAWSHIN ISLAM: My name is Nawshin. I’m here with DRUM. My message to Donald Trump: Well, you have had privilege your whole life. You’ve had so many privileges that we don’t have, and you judge us from such a high horse. First of all, get off your high horse. Talk to me standing at the same level as me. See where I’ve been. Walk a mile in my shoes. And then you can tell me what to do. Then you can tell me where my home is, because this is my home, and you’re not taking me out of here.

AMY GOODMAN: Voices from the May Day protests in New York. Special thanks to Democracy Now!’s Charina Nadura, John Hamilton, Andre Lewis, Ariel Boone, Rubén Gómez García.

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