The rain isn’t any lighter in East Boston, but the crowd isn’t any less determined here either. If anything, energy is highest in East Boston, where local community, labor, and immigrant groups have been joined by SEIU workers, Occupiers, and anarchists, still going strong after earlier events in the day.
“It was only 150 people marching into Chelsea,” says Vega of the first march.
“It grew to 10,000 in 2006.”
Vega wants people to know that May Day rallies aren’t the end of community action.
“May first doesn’t finish here. This is a huge year, one with a presidential election.”
Speakers at the rally included representatives from East Boston Eccumenical Community Council (EBECC), the May 1st Coalition, and City Life/Vida Urbana. Other organziations involved in the event included MassUniting, the Chelsea Collaborative, Chinese Progressive Association,Jobs with Justice, La Comunidad, the Massachusetts AFL-CIO, and Neighbors United for a Better East Boston (NUBE).
Immigrant rights are a key topic in East Boston, which has a large Latino immigrant population.
“A state that is supposedly liberal like Massachusetts… is acting just like Arizona, trying to criminalize immigrants,” says one speaker in Spanish, a young man in a white shirt.
“[The Democrats] are supposedly on the side of immigrants but are responsible for biggest number of deportations in the United States.”
He is referring to the fact President Obama has deported more illegal immigrants than Bush.
The march soon begins, taking off towards the Maverick T station and soon into Chelsea. People chant
“El Pueblo Unido/Jamás Será vencido!”
(“The people united will never be defeated!”). Drummers bang away at the front of the line.
The procession is massive, and seems to cover the length of the Andrew McArdle.
The march soon reaches its destination: Everett’s Glendale Park. Gabriel Camacho of American Friends Service Committee receives the long parade, greeting workers and immigrants of every nationality and organization, enduring the rain in a bright yellow coat.
Tolman addresses the crowd, telling them about the Bread and Roses strike in Lawrence, MA 100 years ago.
“Twenty-five thousand women and children walked out of the mills,” he says. “The mill owners never thought they would get together because there were so many different nationalities.”
They fought through cold weather for wages and better working conditions, and won.
With that message of solidarity and determination in mind, Tolman tells the crowd, “I want to work with you… Your struggles are our struggles and together we must work so the justice prevails in the workplace.”
“Weather did not deter us at all,” says Tolman, backstage. “Lotta spirit in the crowd, it’s a good vibe.”
He reinforces the same message of unity prevalent in his speech.
“Together we all share simple common goals — justice in the workplace, fair pay, affordable health care.”
Lydia Lowe of the Chinese Progressive Association is glad the AFL-CIO is involved in May Day. Like most of the crowd, her organization is concerned with both workers’ and immigrants’ rights.
“The struggle for labor rights is inseparable from the struggle for immigrant rights,” she says. She adds that she knows it will take a while, but also knows the struggle is worth it. She’s not the only one ready for a long fight.
“We’re in it for the long haul,” says Gloribell Mota of NUBE. “May Day is celebrated all over the world, and we want to highlight that as a way to uplift and continue fighting past May first, continue until we see immigrant rights and labor rights.”
Despite the unrelenting rain, spirits remain high until the rally ends, and the crowd shows a strong sense of community and solidarity, always chanting, cheering, and encouraging speakers. It’s a great sign if you ask Tolman.
“We may have had rain all day,” he says, “but there’s a lot of heart and sunshine in the message we all share.”