Los Angeles Garment & Citizen, News Report , Jerry Sullivan
LOS ANGELES--Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) officials are preparing for as many as 100,000 demonstrators to descend upon Downtown for the annual May Day march, an event that’s expected to serve as a rallying point for immigration reform.
The demonstrators are likely to issue loud complaints about a law that recently passed in Arizona, allowing law-enforcement officers there to question suspected illegal immigrants and arrest anyone who cannot prove citizenship or legal residency.
Representatives of pro-immigrant advocacy groups, labor unions and other organizations from across Southern California have announced plans to march together, with the event set to begin at approximately 10 a.m. on Saturday, May 1, at Olympic Boulevard and Broadway. The route of the march is expected to proceed north and west to the area around City Hall, and street closures and changes to bus service in the Downtown area will likely be in effect for much of the day.
The annual May Day marches typically bring crowds to the streets of Downtown and other parts of the city to mark the holiday, which is known as International Worker’s Day, and to demonstrate for various causes. Calls for immigration reform have been a main message for marchers in recent years.
LAPD Deputy Chief Jose Perez, who oversees operations throughout Downtown and adjacent areas, said that he and members of his command staff have been tracking the progress of organizing efforts and meeting with various groups involved in planning the May Day demonstration. Perez said that estimates as of presstime—several days before the event—indicated the likelihood of a crowd in the 100,000 range. He also said that other groups of marchers under different banners—including a contingent of the local Revolutionary Communist Party—plans to stage their own marches in the city’s center .
LAPD officials made similar projections on crowd counts prior to marches that drew an estimated 500,000 participants in 2006, with upward revisions coming right as late as the night before the events.
Recent years have seen May Day marches dwindle, sometimes drawing fewer than 5,000 participants. A number of factors indicate that this year’s event could see a return to big crowds, though. One indicator came on March 21 in Washington, D.C., where tens of thousands of demonstrators gathered outside the U.S. Capitol to call for legislation that would bring immigration reform that includes a pathway to legalization for otherwise qualified illegal immigrants. A demonstration by pro-immigrant groups drew a crowd of 10,000 to 15,000 to Downtown less than a week later—nothing close to the turnout in 2006, but considerably more than have made such efforts in the years since. The recent passage of the Arizona appears to have added momentum to the recent rekindling of the push for immigration reform. And the fact that the upcoming May Day falls on a Saturday will likely boost the turnout, too.
Another factor that could boost turnout is word that Latino/Americans won’t be the only ethnic group with a substantial representation in the march. The Asian Journal, which covers the Filipino/American community in Los Angeles and several other cities, recently reported that members of an organization called Bayan USA are planning to participate. Bayan USA is coalition of 14 Filipino/American advocacy groups located throughout the U.S.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security estimates that the Republic of the Philippines accounts for 270,000 of the 11 million or so undocumented immigrants believed to reside in the U.S. The Philippine Consulate in Los Angeles and representatives of Bayan USA have said they believe the number to be somewhere between 350,000 and 400,000. The total from the Philippines, in either case, is far fewer compared to estimates for Mexico and other Latin American countries, but the most among Asian nations.
The recent increases in the numbers of Latino/Americans turning out for immigration-related demonstrations combined with what appears to be growing support from members of other ethnic groups looks to be part of a growing campaign to push for reform legislation. The matter took a back seat to President Barack Obama’s proposal to overhaul federal regulations on healthcare all through 2009 and much of this year. The delay has led to impatience among various advocates for immigration reform as well as illegal immigrants who have increasingly seen employment opportunities fade as the Obama Administration conducts checks on employers, often ordering the dismissal of workers whose Social Security numbers do not match with federal records.