May Day March for Dignity and Resistance in the Fruitvale District
May Day is traditionally a holiday celebrating springtime where people in many countries take to the streets to celebrate spring. In Oakland, California on May 1, 2012, thousands of Bay Area residents and progressive organizations turned out in an impressive march full of people celebrating their backgrounds and cultures while pushing for social change.
The march from Fruitvale BART at 3pm, ending at Frank Ogawa Plaza in Downtown Oakland at 7pm was distinctly nonviolent and upbeat. Among the crowd were all cross-sections of the Bay Area, from Asian senior groups to Latino day laborer groups, from white hipsters and hippies to black youth on scraper bikes.
With thousands of demonstrators marching, police presence was heavy, but non-confrontational. Over a dozen law enforcement vehicles followed behind the march (including Oakland Police, Alameda County Sheriff Dept, and other unmarked police vehicles).
Many of the marchers were marching to raise awareness about immigrant rights and rallied around the theme of "Dignity and Resistance - Papers for All." The organizers' demands are to stop political discrimination against immigrants in the Bay Area and to welcome them as our neighbors. Their requests include the following:
The crowd marched to San Antonio Park in Oakland. Speakers in the park addressed topics like labor rights, immigrant rights, and how to improve Oakland's public schools. One mother got up and spoke out against Oakland Unified School District's plans to close Sante Fe Elementary.
Oakland and East Bay organizations were joined by San Francisco nonprofits including the Living Wage Coalition. Many progressive San Francisco organizations who participated in the San Francisco rallies earlier in the day, took BART over to join and support the Oakland organizations. The March for Dignity and Resistance served to highlight the disparities and second-class treatment of immigrants in the Bay Area.
Despite the afternoon march being the most popular event on May 1--bringing out thousands of people--it was the least reported on. Instead, the mainstream media chose to focus on covering the small groups of protesters who got in violent clashes with the police.
There were thousands peacefully marching from the Fruitvale District to Downtown Oakland, gathered by mutual interests and celebrating the equality of all people. These different groups rallied together as one voice calling for social change, racial equality, and labor and immigrant rights. It's unfortunate that these thousands of voices were drowned out in the media coverage by a few dozen people who clashed with police. Here are photos from the May Day March in Oakland from 3pm to 7pm.
By, Joe Sciarrillo
Joe Sciarrillo is a San Francisco-based photographer from Novato, California. He studied at the Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University majoring in Culture and Politics. He's co-founder of the African Advocacy Network, a San Francisco nonprofit, which provides culturally competent social services to African and Afro-Caribbean immigrants and refugees. His photography is featured in Oakland in Popular Memory, being published on May 15. This blog post is cross-posted here.