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¡Huelga! - By Stephen Jackson - May 1, 2017 - SF Weekly
SF Weekly

¡Huelga!

May Day protests held in San Francisco on May 1, 2013 (Mike Koozmin)

Today is International Worker’s Rights Day (aka May Day), and a large general strike is being called for across the country. In San Francisco, Mission resident and long-time community organizer Roberto Hernandez is using the day’s significance to organize a large-scale Un Dia Sin Inmigrantes (A Day Without an Immigrant) demonstration. At 11 a.m. today, thousands of people plan to gather at Justin Herman Plaza and march toward City Hall in protest of President Donald Trump’s apparent crusade against the rights of immigrants.

The demonstration is the newest chapter of the Un Dia Sin Inmigrantes demonstrations, which began 11 years ago on May 1, 2006, where similar protests took place across the nation.

“We’d like to educate our community about not being fearful, because the amount of fear people have today about even going out their house is at an all-time high,” Hernandez says. “One thing is showing unity and empowering people not to be afraid…Number two is to make a statement [across the country] like we did 11 years ago, to let it be known that this sleeping giant of Latinos, who are the hardest working immigrant population, is not just going to roll over, or bend over or lay down and let the new administration do whatever they want with us.”  

Hernandez also made it clear that the demonstration represents the plight of all immigrants, not just the Latino population.

The protest calls for people to not go to work or school, to not purchase anything, and to not do any kind of banking for the entire day. Political positions expressed on the event’s Facebook page include opposition to the border wall, ICE raids, and U.S. military intervention abroad. There is also a strong support of labor unions, the defense of the environment, and stopping attacks on “Muslims, people of color, women, LGBTQ, workers, and the poor.”

Two weeks ago, Sup. Hillary Ronen introduced a resolution — co-sponsored by the entire Board of Supervisors — recognizing the importance of May Day and the Un Dia Sin Inmigrantes demonstration. In fact, her office, along with Sups. Jane Kim and Sandra Fewer’s, will be closed in observance of the day’s significance.

“In honor of May Day, also known as International Worker’s Day, we are taking a firm stance in solidarity with the tens of thousands of workers and immigrants in San Francisco whose rights are being attacked by the Trump Administration,” Ronen tells SF Weekly. “This year, May Day is particularly meaningful for workers across this country. A cross-sector movement has come together to rebrand this day as ‘A Day without an Immigrant’.  This resolution recognizes that our movements are stronger when we are united in the face of Federal threats.”

Hernandez says that while there are other demonstrations taking place in major cities across the country, this protest is itself a grassroots affair. In fact, a number of labor unions in San Francisco are choosing to feed into the march in solidarity for immigrant rights as well as to demonstrate for their own causes.

Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 87 President Olga Miranda says that her union – which represents janitors in San Francisco – voted to “yes” to a resistance vote on Saturday, and is encouraging members not to attend work.

“To me, A Day Without an Immigrant means that the people who take out your trash and clean your offices, the folks who make the beds and prepare the nice hotel rooms, the people that raise people’s children, that clean their houses, that pick their vegetables – those hands will not be serving people on Monday,” says Miranda.

According to Miranda, International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 10 is striking, and United Service Workers West has “taken a position to encourage their members to not go to work.”

For organizer Berta Hernandez, her connection in both the planning and execution of the day’s protest is a personal matter. She immigrated from Mexico City in 1987 and has since called the Bay her home and has raised all her children here. She says that over the past thirty years she’s been shocked by the lack of immigrant rights in the U.S., and after receiving her papers she went into social work helping other immigrant families in her community.

“I think that we need to march, we need to be out there, we need to be present,” says Hernandez.

The Un Dia Sin Inmigrantes March begins at 11 a.m. in Justin Herman Plaza and will travel up Market Street to Civic Center Plaza.