Immigrant, labor, Occupy groups join for protests

By Marcus Wohlsen

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, May 1 2012 10:10 a.m. MDT

California Highway Patrol members stand watch at the Golden Gate Bridge in preparation for possible May Day protests in San Francisco, Tuesday, April 1, 2012. Protesters had backed away from a call to block the bridge. But scores of California Highway Patrol officers nonetheless lined the span and gathered around the toll plaza this morning.

Eric Risberg, Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO — The most visible organizing effort by anti-Wall Street groups since Occupy encampments were dismantled last fall are being planned for May Day, a change from recent years when protests on the international workers' holiday focused on immigrant rights.

Organizers of the various demonstrations, strikes and acts of civil disobedience, which could disrupt commutes in several major cities on Tuesday, aren't too concerned about muddling the message. They point out that their movements have similar goals: fair wages, the need for jobs and equality.

In Los Angeles, at least a half-dozen rallies were planned, and a few will feature both immigration activists and Occupy protesters. Immigration activists approached Occupy protesters while they were camped in front of City Hall last year, said Jorge-Mario Cabrera, a spokesman for the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights in Los Angeles.

"There has been a growing understanding that both movements cared for the other, and that both movements were part of the 99 percent," said Cabrera, referring to an Occupy rallying cry about 1 percent of the population controlling much of the country's wealth.

In Atlanta, immigration activists plan a rally at the state Capitol, where a law targeting illegal immigration was enacted last year. Many from the Occupy movement plan to attend the event billed as a "historic coming-together" of immigrants and working people in the face of economic depression, Occupy Atlanta organizer Tim Franzen said.

He said May Day "is about international solidarity with workers."

Organizers with Chicago's rally, which has been geared toward immigrant rights in recent years, said they welcomed participation from Occupy groups.

"I definitely see it as an enrichment of it," said a Chicago organizer, Orlando Sepulveda. "It's great."

Many of Chicago's most vocal immigrant rights groups have participated in the Occupy movement, which has delved into several neighborhoods with large immigrant populations.

In Minneapolis, the Minnesota Immigrant Rights Action Committee is among several groups coordinating with Occupy protesters for a range of events. The immigrant rights group plans a march that organizers hoped would attract several thousand people after last year's event drew less than a thousand.

Brad Sigal, a volunteer with the group, said "our march is its own activity" but that his group feels the Occupy movement's message is a natural fit with their own.

"I think it's clear that all of the problems that are being faced by immigrant workers and by unions and by students facing massive debt, all the problems come from the same source, and that's the economic system and the economic inequality that's trying to make a profit at any cost," Sigal said.

A more labor-centric protest was going on in the San Francisco Bay Area, where service on the Golden Gate Ferry was shut down Tuesday as ferry workers went on strike. They have been in contract negotiations for a year and working without a contract since July 2011 in a dispute over health care coverage, the Inlandboatmen's Union said.

A coalition of bridge and bus workers said they will honor the picket line of at least 50 workers outside the Larkspur ferry terminal. They were joined by several Occupy protesters.

Protesters had backed away from earlier calls to block the Golden Gate Bridge, but scores of California Highway Patrol officers — some carrying helmets and batons — lined the span during the morning rush hour nonetheless. Some protesters with signs stood nearby, but did not disrupt traffic.

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