Crowds Gather In Los Angeles For May Day Immigrants' Rights March

May 1, 2016
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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Michel Martin. It's May 1, and we are going to start in Los Angeles today, where crowds are marching throughout downtown as part of the annual May Day march for immigrants rights. This year also marks the 10th anniversary of the historic 2006 May Day marches, which took place around the country on this date a decade ago. Hundreds of thousands of protesters marched in Los Angeles alone, making it one of the largest immigrants rights marches in U.S. history.

We're going to talk about what those marches may or may not have accomplished in a few minutes. But first we're checking in with Leslie Berestein Rojas. She's a reporter with Southern California Public Radio, and she's in Los Angeles where the march is taking place. Leslie, welcome. Thanks for joining us.

LESLIE BERESTEIN ROJAS, BYLINE: Thanks for having me on.

MARTIN: So what's the atmosphere there like now?

ROJAS: You know, the atmosphere is right now - it's pretty lively. People haven't started marching yet. They're gathering; you've got several hundred people gathered in downtown L.A. And, you know, right now they're just ready to hear some speakers, the program is beginning, (Unintelligible) some rallying before people actually start to march.

MARTIN: Now, the demonstration comes just after presidential candidate Donald Trump visited California, which sparked some, you know, kind of ugly confrontations between protestors and the police. So would you say that there's sort of a - do you think that that's kind of affecting the mood there at all?

ROJAS: It is a very different vibe than some of the marches in years past, yes. You have a lot of people that are wearing, for example, T-shirts that say I'm a dealer, I'm a trafficker. And of course, that's referring to feeling like some of the campaign rhetoric, especially from Donald Trump, has been criminalizing immigrants. So that's definitely in protest. There's very - a very angry tone amongst some of the protesters. At the same time, the organizers are telling people, you know, just stay focused, right?

The Supreme Court is supposed to announce in June a decision on President Obama's plan that would allow the temporary illegal status for many more immigrants than are covered right now under Deferred Action, so that's one thing. And they're also telling people to just vote. Just go out to the polls in November and vote.

MARTIN: You were at the 2006 marches, if I have that right. Do you mind just giving us a sense of what you remember and how the atmosphere today compares to what you saw then?

ROJAS: You know, in 2006, I actually covered the large march in San Diego, which wasn't quite as big as the one in L.A. where there were hundreds of thousands of people but it was still historically huge. It was a very different atmosphere in the sense that there was a sense of optimism in the air. I mean, there was some reaction back then to some legislation that some deemed anti-immigrant.

But the main thing was anticipation of immigration reform. There was talk of comprehensive immigration reform in Congress, which is not on the table now. So people are feeling frustrated, and they are feeling malign. And that's definitely different than it was in 2006.

MARTIN: That's Leslie Berestein Rojas. She's the reporter with Southern California Public Radio, and she joined us by phone from Los Angeles where she's covering the May Day demonstrations. Leslie, thanks so much for joining us.

ROJAS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.