Completing the “Immigrant Rights May Day Triology” was this year’s installment/demonstration in Santa Ana. Ending with a rally in the city’s Plaza de Banderas, organizers and the media placed the crowd somewhere between 200 and 300 gente. Like Los Angeles and every other city this May Day, crowds were noticeably smaller. In 2006, 15,000 people marched throughout the day in Santa Ana as people didn’t show up to work, select business closed for the day, and demonstrations took place for hours upon hours. The following year in 2007, between 2,000 – 3,000 people took to the streets for a smaller yet still spirited protest march. This year, families and activists numbered, as stated previously in the few hundreds for the demonstration put on by local groups such as El Centro Cultural de Mexico and Chicanos Unidos.
What accounts for the downsizing? There are various factors that I will ruminate through.
1) The ICE Factor: Immigration raids have been occurring throughout the past couple years in communities throughout the nation and to be sure, throughout the southland. These gestapo like tactics by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency have put a chill on the undocumented community. They don’t know when raids will strike their workplace, homes and places of commerce. The decrease in the crowd numbers for a public march are a direct result of this phenomenon.
2) MacArthur Park Beatdown: The “We Be Clubbin'” pig frenzy in MacArthur park last year has been the second most important display of intimidation by the state next to the ICE raids. The images of families getting whacked like a piñata with the batons of the LAPD discouraged large numbers of potential marchers. The state’s ability to terrorize vulnerable sectors of society is a primary and undeniable reason for the smaller crowds.
3) El Piolín = Nowhere to be Seen: Community radio and other leftists media outlets may have fooled themselves in terms of how much of a role they played in generating turnout for the seismic immigrant marches of 2006. Ultra popular Spanish radio DJ’s deserve the lion’s share of the credit for previous successes and their subsequent absence is reason for the deflated crowds of 2008. Last year, Don Cheto picked up the slack. Does anyone know who the main media Mexican was for this year? Jose Luis Sin Censura?
4) Hey Babe, Que Paso? Does anyone remember the slogan “Today We March, Tomorrow We Vote?” Well that was yesteryear and with a presidential campaign in our midst, the electoral strategy of the immigrant rights movement is nowhere to be seen in the ways it was expected. Legislatively, HR 4437 was a reactionary measure in 2006 and provoked a massive reaction. This year, the SAVE Act is almost every bit as terrible yet wasn’t mobilized around in the same manner as the Sensenbrenner bill was unfortunately.
5) Mr. Momentum Changed Jerseys?: Shrinking crowd sizes isn’t a phenomenon solely relegated to the immigrant rights movement. The anti-war movement has suffered from it from the very day after the historic mobilizations of February 15th, 2003. When everyday people fail to see tangible changes, the logic of mass demonstrations no longer has the same attractive appeal.
As a last point of commentary on this year’s May Day demonstrations, the presence of “Legalize LA” t-shirts disturbed me. They were being handed out for free at the Santa Ana march and friends told me there was a similar sea of shirts in Los Angeles as well. The message in and of itself is not problematic, just the messenger. Dov Charney is the owner of American Apparel and has tried to present himself in a positive light to an immigration movement that is partially comprised of a working population that forms the production base of his company. The “Legalize LA” shirts are part of his campaign and he successfully made too many people (many of whom presumably were unaware) walking advertisements for his company.
Some progressives take the bait, while others see Charney for what he really is; an anti-feminist, anti-union poverty pimp with a perverse advertisement campaign. (And no matter the PR posturing, nor whatever wages he parcels out to AA workers, the basic capitalist structure of surplus appropriation in his enterprise remains intact) If there was any measure of coordination between some immigrant rights organizations involved with putting on southland marches and American Apparel, I can only hope the movement sends his posturing an unequivocal and resounding “Thanks, but no thanks!” this time next year. My people aren’t the pseudo-philanthropic asterisks of fake progressive entrepreneurs!
Onward to full legalization!