Various CSUN organizations and faculty participated in an immigration march in downtown Los Angeles May 1 in what was known as May Day, or “A day without immigrants,” to protest recently proposed tougher immigration legislation.
CSUN’s Movimiento Estudiantil Chicana/o de Aztlan, a group that seeks to advance consciousness of Chicano history by education and political action, organized about 550 CSUN students, high school students, local area residents and faculty members to participate in the demonstration in downtown L.A.
About 400,000 people came to the protest, according to news reports.
May Day was also aimed to show lawmakers the significant impact immigrants have on the U.S. economy. Thousands of protestors voiced their disapproval of the federal HR 4437 bill, which would criminalize undocumented immigrants and make those who assist them felons.
M.E.Ch.A. organized buses to pick up people from three starting points: Nordhoff Street and Van Nuys Boulevard, Los Angeles Valley College and Victory and Balboa Boulevard.
Demonstrators were taken to the North Hollywood Metro Center. The group arrived at the Metro center on 7th Street in downtown Los Angeles around 11:30 a.m.
Carlos Moran, M.E.ch.A chair, helped local residents load onto the bus as 14 police cars were parked at the Metro center along Victory and Balboa Boulevard.
He said the police hassled him for helping some of the demonstrators.
“They started coming, and there were about 10 cops surrounding us asking for our IDs,” Moran said. “And they handcuffed three students and gave them truancy tickets, even though they had permission slips.”
Moran said the police were being overly aggressive and told him to shut off his cell phone.
“One of them (took) my ID and he gave me a citation because I didn’t have a change of address,” he said. “So I told him thanks for harassment. You proved your point that these kids probably deserved this right; I was being sarcastic about it.”
Police continued to harass him and the demonstrators, Moran said.
“Then in a real serious tone, while looking at me in the eye, like he was intimidating me, he said, ‘You haven’t seen harassment yet.’ I was like ‘Wow, so you’re saying you’re capable of further harassment?’ And he said, ‘I’m capable of anything.’ ”
The officer said to have committed these actions could not be found.
But Moran was not alone on his journey to downtown. At the intersection of Victory and Balboa Boulevard, two CSUN professors held signs up as people drove by honking or yelling obscenities in objection.
Victor Carrillo, Chicano/a studies professor, said he went to the metro center because he supported the cause.
“We are an inclusive society in theory, but I want us to become an inclusive society in practice, and this is where it starts,” Carrillo said.
As Marta Lopez-Garza, chair of the Women’s Studies Department, and Carrillo stood at the corner holding their signs, she said the police were too busy trying to arrest minors to notice people who were breaking the law.
“A car went through a red light and one made an illegal U-turn through the light as police were harassing students,” Lopez-Garza said.
But nothing stopped the people from loading on to the buses, as three buses pulled up to take the people to the rally.
The buses were full of high school students, families and friends who were supporting the demonstration, whether they were legal or not.
Noah Pelayo, an 18-year-old high school senior, said he was excited about demonstrating.
“It’s great, really good and it’s what we need to do,” Pelayo said. “I’m representing my family. I have cousins, an aunt and some friends who are immigrants. Even though I was born here, I have to help out my family and friends.”
Since people were boycotting for the day, many did not pay the Metro fair.
Several people were afraid of the Metro’s reaction, but at North Hollywood Metro people got on the subways without paying and were not hassled.
On the packed trains people stood with anticipation and readiness to demonstrate their passion, holding American flags and posters that said things, such as “Schwarzenegger is the Son of a Nazi.”
Maria Rodriguez, senior Psychology major, said although there has been national opposition, she has not seen or heard dissent to immigration laws at CSUN.
“CSUN hasn’t chosen a side. It’s apathetic and I haven’t heard anything,” said Rodriguez, while smiling and looking at the hoards of people chanting at open stores in downtown to close.
National opposition comes from people like Mark Christopher, a radio host in Tennessee whose own, “The Mark Christopher Show,” calls for Americans to react to the protests.
“We aren’t looking to hurt anyone,” he said. “We are actually just looking to help Americans and American business. Obviously the goal of the protest or boycott is to hurt American business and to show economic muscle, and they have the right to do that.”
“I’m just saying we have the right, too, and in our case, we are not looking to call names or round people up or ship them out. I’m just asking that if you’re already going to spend money, spend it on May 1. It’s non-violent, non-hateful and peaceful.”
Yienfanh Phommala, a fourth-year sociology major who works in the Educational Opportunity Program at CSUN, said he attended the demonstration because the United States’ actions to create stricter immigration legislation is wrong.
“This is the immigrants land,” he said. “The United states wouldn’t be where they are today-economically-without the immigrants.”