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Immigrant Rights Groups, Labor and Occupy Plan May Day Protests


Protest groups across the country are gearing up for May Day protests today. In New York, Occupy Wall Street has posted a schedule for the day, kicking off with young workers marching from Bryant Park in solidarity with the Transport Workers Union. Occupy says it plans to visit the offices of union busters and companies with whom the TWU members have contract disputes.

At around noon, protesters will then go on an “immigrant worker justice tour,” in order to highlight the daily struggles facing immigrants and workers in New York City. Activists will visit several workplaces in midtown to “demand an end to exploitation of immigrant workers” with the march ending at Senator Schumer’s office for a speak-out on what real immigration reform looks like.

Occupy has also scheduled an event to “Save The People’s Post Office” where protesters will meet at the Peter Stuyvesant Post Office at 14th Street and First Avenue. I previously have written about the fake USPS budget crisis and how our pro-privatization Congress refuses to allow the Post Office to save itself.

The evening will culminate with a rally for labor and citizens’ rights at City Hall, a May Day People’s Assembly at Foley Square and a memorial for Kimani Gray, the Brooklyn teenager slain by the NYPD, at Zuccotti Park. Protesters plan on addressing racial profiling under stop-and-frisk, full legalization for immigrants, an immediate end to deportations, the injustices of the 1 percent and the devastating consequences of austerity.

Nationally, May Day protests have already attracted the attention of authorities. FBI agents in Seattle and Olympia have reportedly been showing up at people’s houses, schools, workplaces and even favorite jogging routes to question individuals about their May Day plans.

The agents were mostly chummy with the people they contacted. As one woman talked to agents, another housemate described their manner as “jokey and flirty—I almost thought they were gonna ask her out!”

Flirty or not, they identified themselves as members of the FBI’s domestic terrorism unit. Apparently, the vandalism of May Day 2012, and the potential demonstrations on May Day 2013, are terrorism investigations. (Which, frankly, seems to me like a grave insult to anyone from Boston to NYC to Kandahar who’s been a victim of, or lost a family member to, actual terrorism.)

In one case yesterday, the agents reportedly turned up at a public park to intercept two joggers. The joggers said “no, thanks” and went home. About 20 minutes later, the agents reportedly showed up at their house.

This highly invasive behavior by authorities isn’t unusual. In 2012, the NYPD raided activists’ homes before the annual protests. At the time, the National Lawyer’s Guild said it was aware of at least five instances of the NYPD’s paying activists visits, including one where the FBI was involved in questioning.

Ayn Dietrich, a spokesperson for the FBI, would neither confirm nor deny anything about the visits to the Seattle Stranger. However, she did say, “We do all kinds of routine activities throughout the state on any given day. If we have people out there, it could be community outreach, emergency response, or investigative work…. We sometimes knock on doors when there’s an issue of a missing child. We’re around the community, especially with ethnic minority groups, to let them know they can come to us to report hate crimes.”

It’s ironic Dietrich specifically mentioned ethnic minority groups, given that they’re doing some of the most serious planning around May Day, specifically in fighting for immigrant rights, legalization and an end to deportations. In California, large protests are expected because some undocumented immigrants and their supporters view this as their best chance in many years for immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants.

Reporter David Olson writes that many grassroots immigration activists are unhappy with key elements of the Senate immigration bill, such as the thirteen-year wait for potential citizenship for undocumented immigrants, which Olson says many view as “excessive,” and a trigger mechanism in the bill that makes a path to citizenship dependent on the implementation of stringent border security measures.

Though there is considerably less press coverage of this year’s May Day in comparison to last year’s events—when activists were still coming down from the frenzied energy of the Occupy movement’s apex—now is actually the time when the most exciting grassroots workers’ actions are taking place. Fast food workers in New York City and Chicago have shown innovative ways non-unionized workers can fight for living wages and demonstrated for workers everywhere that labor rights aren’t just for a select sect, but rather for everyone who has ever worked for a day’s wages.

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