NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Immigrant and union groups marched in New York and in cities across the United States Monday to mark May Day and protest against President Donald Trump‘s efforts to boost deportations.
As CBS’s Dick Brennan reported, a crowd amassed late Monday afternoon in Foley Square in Lower Manhattan.
May Day, or International Workers’ Day, goes back generations. It commemorates the Haymarket riot in Chicago on May 1, 1886, in which union laborers and activists calling for an eight-hour day clashed violently with police.
The rallies this May Day had a decided political tilt. Many said they were demanding rights for workers and immigrants, but there was a decidedly anti-Trump administration undercurrent to the protest.
“May Day has historically been a day of our community standing up for the rights of workers and the rights of immigrants,” said protester Muzna Ansari.
“Workers have rights. Workers have rights. Immigrants have rights. We’re standing up for what we’ve enjoyed forever,” said protester Dennis Diaz.
“I’m here to support the immigrants who’s unfairly being treated; make certain that there’s equal opportunity to everyone,” said protester Brendan Lawson.
“I’m here to fight for rights – for rights for workers, for rights for immigrants, for rights for everybody,” one man said. “Everybody that works – the working class, we need to be heard.”
“We’re here today to bring everyone in the community together, because unity is power,” a woman added.
“Workers shouldn’t have to work for little or nothing,” another man added. “Workers should be able to have benefits and living wages, and should be able to take care of their family.”
When WCBS 880’s Alex Silverman asked one woman why she wanted to be at the protest, she replied, “Because silence is complicity.”
A lively brass band played Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land” as the Foley Square event began.
Julissa Busono, an organizer with Make the Road, said, “This has brought a lot of communities together, that before were like, “Oh, I’m not going to work with that person because he’s an immigrant worker.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio spoke at the event.
“Guess what,” he said. “There are a lot more of us than there are of Donald Trump supporters.”
On cue, about a dozen people with red hats and Trump flags tried to get into Foley Square. One of them said, “You don’t like America, then go back!”
Demonstrators made a wall to block them. Trump supporter Tim from Queens fired back: “These people believe in walls. They say they’re tolerant, they’re the most intolerant people you’re going to find.”
Earlier at Macy’s Herald Square, a series of demonstrators went through the store protesting and waving flags. There was no damage and no arrests, CBS2 has learned.
There were 12 arrests for disorderly conduct at a protest in Bryant Park earlier Monday.
There were also a few arrests in Washington Square Park, when people walked off the sidewalks into the streets.
At least 30 people were arrested in all at May Day rallies in New York City Monday.
PHOTOS: May Day Protests In New York
In New Jersey, marchers gathered in Liberty State Park in Jersey City.
“Our message is simple, it’s we are here to stay as an immigrant rights movement, as a community we oppose the administration’s attempts to divide us, to separate our families, to tear apart the fabric of our communities through raids, through detaining immigrants and through xenophobic Muslim bans,” said Sara Cullinane, director of the advocacy group Make the Road New Jersey.
Tens of thousands of immigrants and their allies also rallied in cities such as Chicago, Seattle and Los Angeles. Demonstrations were also held for dozens of smaller cities from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, to Portland, Oregon.
In many places, activists urged people to skip work, school and shopping to show the importance of immigrants in American communities.
While union members traditionally march on May 1 for workers’ rights in countries around the world, the day has become a rallying point for immigrants in the U.S. since massive demonstrations were held on the date in 2006 against a proposed immigration enforcement bill.
In recent years, immigrant rights protests shrank as groups diverged and shifted their focus on voter registration and lobbying. Larger crowds are expected to return this year as immigrant groups have joined with Muslim organizations, women’s advocates and others in their united opposition to Trump administration policies.
“We have never seen such an outpouring of support since we have since the election of Donald Trump,” said Kica Matos, a spokeswoman for the Fair Immigration Reform Movement.
In his first 100 days in office, Trump has aggressively pursued immigration enforcement, including executive orders for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and a ban on travelers from six predominantly Muslim countries. The government has arrested thousands of immigrants in the country illegally and threatened to withhold funding from jurisdictions that limit cooperation between local and federal immigration authorities.
In response, local leaders have vowed to fight back and civic participation has seen a boost, including February’s “Day Without Immigrants.” The travel ban and sanctuary order were temporarily halted by legal challenges.
In addition to rallies, immigrant rights activists in communities in Indiana, Massachusetts, Texas and elsewhere called for strikes to show Americans the demand for immigrant labor and immigrants’ purchasing power.
“On this day, we will not go to work. We will not go to school. We will not buy anything,” said Francisca Santiago, a farmworker from Homestead, Florida.
Immigrant advocates said they hope their message will reach Trump, congressional lawmakers and the public, as well as provide a sense of unity and strength to those opposed to the administration’s policies. In spite of Trump’s avowed crackdown on illegal immigration, many said they hoped a show of strength would help persuade politicians to rethink their plans.
Tom K. Wong, a professor of political science at University of California, San Diego, said the Trump administration’s focus on immigration is generating more support for immigrant rights advocates.
“Every pivot back to the issue of immigration gives the immigrant rights movement another opportunity to make its best pitch to the public,” he said.
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)