International Workers Day San Diego, from the Barrio to the Civic Center

by on May 2, 2011 · 0 comments

in Civil Rights, Labor, San Diego

Yesterday, a bright, sunny Sunday, I hopped on the trolley to 25th and Commercial and made my way to Chicano Park to join the festivities celebrating International Workers Day in San Diego. I was greeted by the sound of music from the awesome mariachi band who were entertaining the crowd from the stage. I’m sorry to say that my spanish is lousy, but as a middle-aged gringa who has lived her whole life in San Diego, mariachi has long been a favorite music style for me.

There were several hundred people in Chicano Park (I later heard an estimate of about 400, and I agree on that count), where people gathered for games, face painting, music and the playground equipment was packed with kids. Representatives from many groups were in attendance, including the Save Our Barrios Coalition, SEIU, America Friends Service Committee, MEChA SDSU and a group urging the release of the Cuban Five. Petitions were circulating, among them the California Cannabis Coalition seeking a referendum to end the ban on medical marijuana In San Diego. A Filipino youth group representing AnakBayan-SD was present and made a statement to the crowd.  I spoke to a young woman who was with a group of anarchists, one of their banners said “Forever Ungovernable.”

Several people approached me and asked about the banner I was carrying, “What is the OB RAG?” One woman said that she and some friends thought it might mean “Residents Against Gentrification“. I laughed and thought, “Right on!” Everyone I spoke to was smiling, happy to be there and thanked me for coming. I was dismayed however that the majority of white people there were the two dozen or so police officers called in to monitor this peaceful rally.

Many people made statements and although I didn’t understand many of the words, their passion was evident, especially one woman that spoke on behalf of SEIU who raised a great response from the crowd. I wish I could have gotten her name. I came to this event to be a part of it, not so much to document it, so I apologize for the quality of the photos and the report.

After speakers, more music and raffle drawings the crowd began to gather for the march to the Civic Center in downtown San Diego. Led by the Aztec dancers we poured into Logan Avenue and began the 2-1/4 mile march. I was amazed by the number of children, whole families, that braved the hot asphalt and the bright sun to make their voices heard through the neighborhoods and downtown streets.

We marched down Logan Avenue, up 16th Street, west on Market Street in to downtown. The Aztec dancers were amazing, stopping along the way to perform, dancing the whole way in their sandaled feet. We marched in the sun while people chanted, mostly in Spanish, and I joined in when I could, Raza si, migra no! , “ They say cut back, we say fight back! or, as the anarchists responded, “ They say cut back, we say fuck that! There was a point marching up 16th Street when the anarchists attempted to cross the center line of the street and block traffic coming the other way. The bicycle cops blocked their path and as far as I know, after a few attempts they remained with the procession.

Turning north on 7th Avenue there a bit of respite from the heat in the shade of the buildings there, then coming down B street our destination was in sight. The closer we got, the louder we got. The energy was wonderful, even after a 2 mile march. They held us back as the dancers crossed the intersection at 3rd and B Streets and the chanting increased. Then all of us, workers, students, families, anarchists, activists, latinos, filipinos and gringos flooded into the Civic Center Plaza, to the welcoming cheers of the people already there.

I am grateful to have been a part of it and as a good friend, Gregg Robinson, was quoted as saying, “We have to discover what unites us and not be pitted against each other.”

¡Unidos Venceremos!

Look for a report from Frank (who was doing his civic duty today and sitting in a jury selection hall) on the downtown rallies in the morning.

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