May Day: Put Your Hands Together

Categories: On the Stump
Some folks have called for a daylong general strike by immigrants on the May 1 national day of action for immigrant rights. Others think immigrants should boycott buying things for the day. In New York City, however, the action will be confined to your lunch hour. At 12:16 p.m. on Monday (commemorating 12/16/2005, when the detested Sensenbrenner immigration bill passed the House) groups on Fifth Avenue in Brooklyn, Fordham Road in the Bronx, and locations elsewhere in the city will form human chains for 15 to 20 minutes.

"What happened on April 10 is the beginning of a powerful movement and we are determined to keep the momentum going," said Chung Wha Hong, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition, at a City Hall press conference Tuesday, referring to the rally that, organizers claim, 300,000 people attended. May 1 is intended "to make the case that immigrants make New York stronger."

But, as Councilman John Liu noted, "the city would grind to an absolute halt economically, culturally, socially, everything if not for the efforts of immigrants and new Americans." And that is why some are calling for more dramatic action on May Day, to demonstrate what a day without immigrants would be like. So why not here? Why not grind it to a halt?

"We are not calling for a strike but we respect those who are doing otherwise," Hong said in answer to a reporter's question; she added later on that they also did not endorse the any boycott. "We need members of the media to focus on substantive issues," she insisted. "The way that we express ourselves is not important."

So, why not here? "We have already achieved the goal of highlighting the economic contribution to our city" made by immigrants, said Ana Maria Achila of the Latin American Integration Center. She added that the human chains are meant "to celebrate immigrants not just as workers, not just as consumers, but as creators of worth."

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