It was an overcast day in southern California.
Waking up unusually early, I packed my camera gear and headed out.
It was going to be an eventful day.
I bought a ticket on the Gold Line headed from Pasadena Lake Station to Union Station in downtown Los Angeles.
As I went to board the train, dozens of people filed into the station, singing and yelling songs and chants in Spanish.
Jovial and smiling, these men and women all wore white t-shirts and carried signs written in Spanish. They had American Flags everywhere. I have never seen so many American flags.
“Si Se Puede” is what they said as they rushed onto the gold line. I guess the English translation is “Yes WE Can.”
As I entered a rail line, I was greeted by a packed sea of white t-shirt wearing people.
They were all going to one place, and were all there for one reason.
It was “MAY DAY”, May 1st 2006, and it seemed like the entire Latino population of America was on strike that day.
May 1st is the International day of Celebration for workers. It was created to celebrate the labor movement of the world, and in this case, was also called The Great American Boycott. They wore white as a symbolic show of solidarity.
Millions around the country did not go to school or work that day to show the solidarity of a people with a common goal: to have their voice be heard.
I used three cameras for the event, my digital: the Canon 20D, my 35mm film Nikon F3, and a medium format Holga.
All of the color work that isn’t medium format (square) is from the 20D, and all the black and white that are film; Ilford FP4 125, Delta 100, and one roll on PANF Plus 50. The medium format is from the Holga, using Delta 400 and Kodak ULTRA COLOR 400 Film.
I had a blast doing this.
City Hall, Los Angeles. May 1st 2006. “MAY DAY”
They protested everywhere they could; or a least wherever the cops let them.
Right in front of City Hall.
One of the many “eyes in the sky” over Los Angeles that day.
If America is a representative democratic republic, then essentially it must strive to represent the needs of all its citizens, not just the majority. Its not about race, religion, political party affiliation, age, or sex. Its about being an American.
This is the march down broadway street.
That day 500,000 (police estimate) to 2 million (Univision estimate) people filled the street of Downtown Los Angeles to protest a House of Representatives Bill (H.R. 4437) (239 Aye, 182 No, with 13 not voting) which called for:
- a 700 mile long fence on the Mexican-American Border
- Increasing the penalty for hiring illegal workers
- greatly increased congressional oversight in direct dealing with illegal aliens
- levied fines on illegal aliens
- increased fines and minimum sentences for human trafficking violators.
- many other provisions
It angered a lot of people who felt that it was a racially profiled attack on Latino-Americans. It seemed that way, given that none of the provisions but one provided that same angle towards the Canadian Border. Congress had a lot of explaining to do.
On one hand, Congress noted that the US has always controlled immigration, but has realized that illegal immigration is in fact a problem that they would have to deal with. The local, state and federal governments have pretty much come into agreement that an open border policy would not be the best decision for the American people. The burden it would put on health-care, the school system, welfare, transportation, would be completely catastrophic and create tension as unemployment skyrocketed. In other words, the burden an open border policy would create would be too much to bear.
But building a fence might be a little much. Maybe not in our post-9/11 world, but as far a relation with Mexico go, its not exactly a friendly move. But they do say “good fences make great neighbors,” right?
But this is quite a different situation.
It is somewhat flattering that so many people would want to come to this country. There has to be a way to welcome these people without weighing the economy and government down. That’s a Nobel Prize right there.
It is just sad that our practical needs have trumped our idyllic standards.
So here are some of the photos that I have recently decided to put up that were never up before. Some I have put up other places, but not here.
Even the El Pollo Loco was closed. Corporate franchises and stores all over Los Angeles were closed. Even the normally lively Alvera street was dead.
I have never seen it like this.
They had set up a staged area right in front of the City Hall where people came to speak and perform.
She was near the front of the barricades.
These gentlemen were in full Aztec garb. They put on a nice show.
These guys were a trip, for a better lack of words.
They played music and danced the whole time. One of them had burning incense hanging from his body. This one had a conch shell.
There was also a full Mariachi Band.
And a very good looking reporter from Univision.
There was even this guy in the crowd. He obviously did not feel the same way as everyone else and wanted to express his opinion. However distasteful, his right to do so in a peaceful manner are protected by the Bill of Rights.
I couldn’t believe no one was confronting that guy. In hindsight I guess ignoring him was perhaps the best course of action. Personally, I wanted to wipe that “shit-eating” grin off his face with a right hook.
Anyway. . .
People lined up in front of the barrier to see community and national leaders of the Latino population speak.
The people there were pretty happy. I have seen a few protests over the years, and this one was by far the most civil, which was amazing due to the large amount of people that participated.
They were mostly adults, but parents with children in tow were there to show support.
Catholic Bishops, while supporting the rally, encouraged parents to keep their children in schools that day. Even the Mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa, a main supporter of the protest (he even led a march) pleaded with parents to keep their kids in school.
A lot of desks and playgrounds were almost empty that day.
It seemed like everyone had a flag, at one point I saw people handing out American flags to people. The organizers encouraged people to sport American flags, rather than Mexican or other flags out of respect for the country/government they are living in/under and also peacefully protesting against.
This was one of the main organizers of the event.
The man speaking was the direct representative for the Nation of Islam’s Louis Farrakhan.
All of the men in front were his bodyguards. I have seen an entourage before, but this was something else, he had maybe 10 or 15 other guys that were spread out around the place scanning for security threats. They roll pretty deep.
A Latino band.
These two were pretty popular with the press.
I have no idea who this next guy is, I don’t even really remember taking the photo. He had a nice suit though.
This man is a Latino WWII Veteran. He acted in part with other Latino veterans in a color guard group.
This kid was one of my favorites.
There was even a Filipino contingent that marched with the mostly Latino peoples. These other ethnically based groups participated to draw attention to the fact that the march was a much bigger Civil Rights issue than most people would understand. The groups also wanted to show solidarity with fellow Americans and immigrants.
A good part of the streets in downtown LA were closed that day. People just walked wherever they wanted.
The police had City Hall pretty well roped off.
I joined the rally at the beginning and followed the front all the way down Broadway street to City Hall. Immediately as the people saw the city hall, they rushed it.
I had to run faster than everyone there to get that shot. It is one of my favorite photos I have ever made.
In retrospect, I am starting to fully appreciate the opportunity that this presented for me. For starters, I ditched class in Santa Barbara to cover the event. Santa Barbara had its own protest, but it wasn’t like this one. I learned more about photography that day than I ever have in a classroom. You can’t beat experiences like that.
Another thing that changed the day completely was my ability to get a press pass even though I wasn’t representing an official paper. I just looked the part, and had the desire to fully capture the event. Without that pass I would have been stuck behind the barricades, which would have changed my perspective completely.
That day is one I will never forget.
Thanks for taking the time to read and look through this, I put serious amount of work and time into it.
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