April 25-May 1, 2007

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By Patricia Lynn Henley

Reclaiming May Day

Forget dancers weaving around maypoles or communist parades of weaponry. After a highly successful May Day last year, immigrants and their supporters both in the North Bay and nationwide hope this May 1 will once again raise awareness of immigrants' fears and concerns, underscore how much they contribute to this nation's economy, rally support for a living wage and rational laws, and energize the creation of much-needed changes. "May Day, or May 1st, is celebrated internationally as the day of the worker," explains Evelina Molina of the Committee for Immigrant Rights of Sonoma County. "Immigration is inseparable from issues relating to the working class. Immigration is also a human rights issue, which unites us with the global family on May Day."

Supporters will gather at 11am Tuesday, May 1, in the Roseland district of Santa Rosa (665 Sebastopol Road). At noon, they'll make close to a two-mile march through downtown, ending in Juilliard Park for a family unity day with multicultural music, speakers and seminars. Organizers are also calling for a one-day economic boycott. "No shopping, no work, no economic activity," Molina notes. "Shop and pack your lunch before the date because there won't be any purchases that day." Last year, an estimated 15,000 people gathered in Santa Rosa. "They came from as far away as Ukiah," Molina says. "They came from Sonoma, St. Helena, Calistoga." But recent immigration raids in Marin County have sparked strong fears, and there's no way to tell if it will prompt people to stay home this year or show up to express their outrage. "It's hard to gauge the pulse," Molina says.

Marin County is holding a May Day vigil from 6am to 8am in San Rafael's Canal district and a 6pm community forum at Pickleweed Community Park, and many Marin residents are expected to attend the May Day marches in Santa Rosa or San Francisco. Recent Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids in San Rafael and Novato were chilling, says Tom Wilson, executive director of the Canal Community Alliance. "There's definitely community fear, so we don't know what the turnout will be. We want to bring awareness out, but we're trying to be responsive to the community, because they've been hit hard."

Wherever the venue, organizers of May Day activities stress that these events are open to anyone who supports immigrant workers.

"This is a social movement," Molina stresses. "It's not just about May 1. It's about May 2 and beyond. We realize that immigration and discrimination is not going to end with the march. It's a time to get together on what we agree on and what we oppose as a community."

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