Story and some photos by Sarah Espiritu. Cover photo by Alejandra Garcia.
Long Beach organizations fighting for various social issues came together to rally and march on Monday afternoon for International Workers’ Day, joining millions of others protesting around the world in Bangladesh, Greece, France, China, and other nations.
The event, also known as May Day, has a rich history originating in the 1880’s when working class people all over the world united to protest unfair hours and wages before ultimately winning a standard 8-hour work day in some countries.
While labor conflicts surely persist, however, that’s not all residents of Long Beach have to protest in this day and age.
Multiple organizations such as Black Lives Matter, the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy and the Filipino Migrant Center marched on May Day to speak out against President Trump’s administration and policies, marching two miles from MacArthur Park to City Hall.
The coalition brought diverse groups together as a “multi-focus movement” that is pro-immigrant, pro-workers, pro-social justice and pro-Black Lives Matter—all issues that have been brought to light even more so under the current presidency.
The policies of Trump, known for his hardline approach on immigration and failed attempts to ban immigrants from Muslim-majority countries, ironically pushed local groups to work together against such measures. One way to fight, they said, is to change local policy and have Long Beach became a sanctuary city for immigrants.
“A lot of families are getting separated,” said protester Fatima Aguayo, 20. “My dad got deported. He passed away that same year.”
Edward Stafford, a former journalist, and his wife Sasha marched in solidarity hoping that by putting their “white body [here] in front of other people” they can support communities of color and one day see Long Beach as a sanctuary city.
From small children holding signs to pro-LGBT marchers and an older generation marching slowly after fighting for many years, the crowd spoke out on issues as diverse as its protesters.
Sylvia Manheim, 91, grew up in the Bronx as the daughter of a factory worker and was on her 81st May Day march. Her father took her to her very first one as a child where she witnessed 100,000 people marching for labor rights, equal pay, pensions and vacations. Since then, she has never missed a march.
“Wherever I’ve been, I’ve always gone to a May Day rally,” said Manheim. “People need to be reminded that without workers of the world, we wouldn’t have a world at all.”
“These four years are an investment for [Trump],” said Toyah Browneyes, 32, whose reason for protesting was against the planned development of the Keystone XL pipelines and others.
Representing Black Lives Matter (BLM), organizer Michael Brown felt that he had to march and publicly object to Long Beach’s officer-on-civilian killings. Brown said that Long Beach police shootings often get overshadowed in news media by the Los Angeles Police Department’s, but to change that means being more vocal.
“BLM is more loud, more abrasive, more in your face. That’s one of the ways we can bring this to people’s attention—by absolutely talking about it, not shying away,” Brown said.
“Even if you were a gang banger or a criminal, you still deserve your day in court. These cops should not play judge, jury and executioner,” he said.
The march remained peaceful as police officers accompanied protesters along Ocean Avenue before concluding at City Hall. Some protesters held signs reading “F*** Tha Police” in reference to N.W.A’s popular rap song from the ‘90s. Other wore shirts depicting the face of Hector Morejon, who was 19 when he was killed by Long Beach police in 2015.
At the concluding rally, one organizer spoke of a tragedy that occurred in her family three months prior in which her father was killed on the job at the Port of Long Beach. “Workers rights are human rights,” she stated as she fought back tears.
In tackling various issues, many community members felt the stakes have become too high. However, that urgency may be inspiring a new generation of protesters out of their homes and into streets.
“I have been living here for 53 years. Never do you hear anything” about protests, said marcher Jorge Rangel, 75. “The reason I know of today is because my son was coming. I am interested in helping people.”
Kimberly Alvarado, Timothy Dickerson, Lindsey Maeda, Alejandra Garcia and William McGivern also contributed to this report.