Published on May 2nd, 2016 | by Reporters Desk0
Long Beach Takes to the Streets on May Day
By Mike Botica, Editorial Intern
Diverse issues and causes were at the forefront of the May Day March & Rally, May 1, which began at MacArthur Park in Long Beach.
The event highlighted wage theft, deportation and police brutality through a unified effort by 19 local organizations. The groups also sought to bring about awareness of workers’, immigrant and other marginalized community rights.
“We’re here today for workers to unite to end wage theft, to struggle for their right to unionize, to organize for safer working conditions in our hotels, and to basically improve the lives of their families and the entire community,” said Nikole Cababa, community organizer for the Filipino Migrant Center. “We’re here because we’re one of the most diverse cities in the entire country, with thousands of migrants and refugees, so we thought it was right to create a space for folks to honor International Worker’s Day together.”
“More than 40 percent of workers in Long Beach have experienced wage theft, meaning that folks aren’t getting overtime pay, or when they’re paid, it’s in bounced checks,” said Celene Perez of the Long Beach Coalition. “And less than 9 percent are even able to get their money back, so it’s a huge problem.
“We’ve been pushing the city and the mayor, and they said that they’re in support, but they haven’t come out and passed an ordinance, and now they’re bringing up excuses of funding.”
Victor Ortiz, the son of José Álvarez, an immigrant who was deported by Long Beach Police Department in March 2016 for a broken taillight, agreed.
“We’re here today in protest against this [injustice], and to change how the system works,” Ortiz said.
Also speaking was Infa Ortíz, José’s wife. She began tearing up while delivering her speech through an English translator.
“I don’t feel very good that they deported my husband just for a taillight,” Infa Ortíz said. “The police did not have the right to bring him to immigration…. It’s not okay what they did. They didn’t even give him a chance to seek out a lawyer, to seek out bond; they just deported him.”
After the event’s first hour, the protesters gathered their signs and megaphones, and took to the streets in peaceful protest. The hundreds of protesters started marched towards city hall, from Anaheim Street through downtown Long Beach and onto Ocean Boulevard.
The crowd booed heavily when marching by The Westin Long Beach Hotel, which has faced accusations of wage theft, racial discrimination and sexual assault by its employees.
Cars drove by and honked in support. Some drivers even stopped to pull out their cameras and record the march.
Among the protesters included members of the Black Lives Matter and the trans rights movements, as well as other social and environmental justice groups.
“We stand in solidarity with the environmental movement; we also stand in support of the labor movement,” said Elliot Gonzales, of Stop Fracking Long Beach. “We’re here to create a vision for a sustainable economy — a just economy, one based on social equity and the uplift of society.”