Tuesday, May 02, 2006

May Day

Wow. I went on the march in SF yesterday–amazing to be on the west coast for this! The papers estimate that 30,000 marched up Market Street, but it seemed like a lot more on the streets. Activist accounts ran much closer to 50,000 upward. But the headline in the SF Chronicle was pretty subdued: "A Million Say: Let Us All Stay." I don't think I've ever been on a march that felt as joyous and buoyant as yesterday's. And for good reason, everyone who came out–individuals, organizations, families from every immigrant group (I saw a banner in Vietnamese!)—did so at some risk but gained so much confidence from the show of strength and solidarity. People chanted and danced and sang. Among the chants were my favorites: a variation of the popular Chavez chant that became: "Oo! Ah! El pueblo no se va!" and one (that admittedly left me confused initially) that had people jumping up and down energetically since if you weren't jumping, you were "la migra." It was May Day as an expression of popular democracy and linked to its legacy as part of a movement of immigrant labor. After all, as Todd Chretien said later in his speech at First Unitarian, it may go down as one of the largest general strikes in the history of the US. (Thanks to Phil Gasper for these photos from the march.)

Later in the evening about 150 came out (after a long and sweaty day!) to rally against the war with Cindy Sheehan, Anthony, Aimee Alison, Todd and others. Here are some highlights:

Yvonne Latty opened with some vignettes from her book, In Conflict, a collection of interviews with returning vets that deals with their coming to conscience, their interactions with family and friends after coming home, how they were treated, and of course exposes the hypocrisy of the US government in claiming to "support the troops" while mistreating and denying them basic rights the whole time.

Aimee (pictured at right with Cindy Sheehan) spoke movingly about her own experience as a Persian Gulf veteran and how she became a conscientious objector. She had some very important things to say about the racism inherent in the military and what she faced as a black woman in the armed forces. She also had excellent insights about the necessity of having a long-term perspective for a serious antiwar movement.

Todd gave a rousing speech about the intimate connections between the labor movement and the antiwar struggle—one that spans the history of the US and deserves to be acknowledged and reinvigorated.

Guillermo Gomez-Pena treated us to some of his biting performance art about the politics of the border, immigration, power, and racism. The piece had plenty of humorous moments that had the crowd laughing at and joining in his condemnation and "evaporation" of the powers that be.

Anthony gave a powerful speech as per usual. The added solemnity of the church and the pulpit lent a punch to his comments that drew on MLK and his historic speech at Riverside Church in New York City when he came out publicly to oppose the war in Vietnam...

(more later...we're motoring to Santa Cruz)

Finally, Cindy Sheehan gave a typically dry-witted address in which she revisited the other May Day (2003) and the infamous publicity stunt with Bush on a naval carrier to announce "Mission Accomplished." She urged people to come out to a number of upcoming actions. Details are at codepink.org. She also fiercely proclaimed that she would "never again vote for a prowar candidate, one who doesn't share my values, as a lesser evil." And she gave a ringing endorsement to Todd's run for senate! Cindy was resolute, fearless, and bold in her calls to build a stronger antiwar movement.

Big thanks to Louise Lamphere and Sid Patel for helping with the photos on this leg of the tour.


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