May Day 2010 Denver
This year the May Day events in Denver, as elsewhere in occupied Amerika, were about migrant rights and were influenced by the recent passage in Arizona of SB1070 that would further criminalize migrants without documents. There were two different events in Denver, each illustrating the different politics around the most recent struggle for migrant rights.
The first event was one RAIM participated in and helped organize. The May Day March for Social Justice, Human Dignity, and Self-Determination was made up of a loose coalition of more radical and independent tendencies. RAIM Denver marched with our allies Resistencia Mexicana, with banners featuring Mexican revolutionary leader Emiliano Zapata. At least 500 people participated in this march, which went from the State Capitol through downtown, ending in Skyline Park for a rally. A Mexica/Aztec dance group performed a ceremony and led the march.
This particular march was unique with respect to the diverse makeup of the participants, who had a more clearer understanding of the repressive character of the state’s response to the “immigrant rights” movement. It showed that there is a progressive sector in Denver that is against reform oriented liberal politics and for more radical change. There were many beautiful banners and signs, good chants, and a more liberatory attitude. The rally included music, food, tables of the participating groups, and speakers.
The first speaker was Ricardo Romero, a long time Chicano/Mexicano human rights organizer and a leader in the Mexican National Liberation Movement, who brought up the ongoing war against the Mexican people exemplified by the anti-migrant movement. Romero pointed out that there is a coming fascist offensive against the Mexicano peoples on their own occupied homeland, and highlighted the need to get educated, organized, and prepared for self-defense and national liberation.
Antonio spoke on behalf of RAIMD, stating that the recent struggle in Arizona is only one of many that has happened since 1848 when the U.S. settler empire invaded Mexico and imposed a border on its northern half. Today, the fight continues on many fronts with Third World peoples fighting against the exploiter countries of the First World. Antonio pointed out that it is important to support the struggles against imperialism everywhere.
RAIMD also brought a pinata for the festivities, in the form of Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer as a pig. The elementary school-aged children at the rally enjoyed participating in the beating of the pig Brewer, and tore it open for the candy and toys inside.
At the rally at Skyline RAIMD and other organizations had tables and distributed information. Here many groups handed out a wide range of literature outside of mainstream discourse. Our own materials were well received by the participants there. We distributed: over two hundred of our program in support of Mexican nation liberation; around 75 new and old RAIM Global Digests; dozens of Troublemaker DVDs; copies of chapter eight from Lin Biao’s ‘Long Live the Victory of People’s War’ and some interviews with J. Sakai, author of ‘Settlers, the Mythology of the White Proletariat;’ even some child-sized t-shirts. Our material sparked many conversations and drew both nods of approval and skeptical looks.
The rally ended later that afternoon with some good music and on a positive note. Despite our real political differences with many of the groups there, overall it showed that there is an organized progressive sector in Denver that is nominally against reform oriented liberal politics and for more radical social change, no matter how small that sector is.
The Other Rally
We should note the other event that went on that day, which was much larger for many reasons. It was organized by Reform Immigration for America, a liberal reformist group that steers the migrant rights struggle into the safe hands of the Democratic Party realm. To illustrate their strategy, at their massive immigration reform rally in Washington back in March of this year, they ended it with a televised speech by President Obama promising reform.
While the coalition that did the May Day March for Social Justice was planning this march months in advance, the liberal groups did not want a march at all. Their last minute changes in response to our organizing and to a changing public opinion show their opportunistic nature. Their original event for May 1st was going to be a “Grade Your Senators” event at Sunken Gardens Park, where participants would fill out faux report cards on legislators. Basically directing people into electoral work, using Latinos as another interest group to gain leverage on the legislative level. The response to Arizona changed this. The days before there were many school walkouts organized in protest of the law in Arizona. In Denver on April 30th many schools walked out and ended at a rally at the Capitol that day. The energy level on May 1st was high, people wanted to march. Also, the legislative campaign would not appeal to the mostly youth and non-citizens that were mobilized. So the liberal non-profits changed plans at the last minute and tailed where the mass movement was going in order to regain leadership.
The resulting march that went from Sunken Gardens through downtown and back to the park turned out about 10,000 people at its height. Their larger turnout was due to the liberal groups larger resource base. They purchased advertising on Spanish television and radio the day before. The organizers brought several pre-printed signs and Amerikan flags to promote “We Are America.” The crowd was encouraged to chant “USA, USA.”
The liberals did what they are expected to do, channel discontent into safe and controllable arenas. In this case promoting assimilationist and reformist messages. Their hope is that mainstream Amerika will see that immigrants are “Americans” too. In the end this strategy, which denies the people the right to their identity, culture, and land, will weaken the necessary independent struggle that is needed to build power to fight against repression. The non-profit industrial complex serves those that use it to continue to get grant funding and patronage, not the people itself.
“May Day, May First, or International Workers Day, originally was a day to commemorate the victims of the Haymarket Massacre in Chicago in 1886. Chicago workers had called a general strike for the eight-hour workday. The peaceful strikers were fired on by police. A bomb exploded.
Several deaths of strikers and police occurred. Some of the police deaths were a result of their own hand, “friendly fire.” [Eight organizers were tried and wrongfully convicted, with some getting the death penalty before they all were exonerated (RAIM)]. Since then May Day has been embraced by revolutionaries and reformists in the labor movement alike. However, May Day means nothing to the vast majority of First World peoples who have no interest in building socialism or ending imperialism. May Day when celebrated by First Worldists is nothing but a parody.”
This march we participated in gave some mixed messages too, but created a space where RAIM, Resistencia Mexicana, and others presented alternatives to Amerikan assimilation and to build real power to bring national liberation.