Socialists, anarchists, antifascists, rank and file union members, and immigrants rights groups took to Manhattan’s streets in unison Wednesday night to celebrate May Day. Hundreds of demonstrators gathered at Columbus Circle before marching east along 59th Street to 5th Avenue under close watch by the NYPD. While the day’s rally began at the Trump Hotel in Columbus Circle and ended near Trump Tower on 56th Street, many attendees said they were aiming higher than merely resisting the President’s administration.
“People are saying, ‘We’re not happy with how things are, we want to see a real change in the way society is organized,’” Pam Galpern, a union shop steward at the Communications Workers of America told Gothamist. “We want to see health care for everyone, we want to see better education for everyone, we want better rights at work and a more humane society where everyone is treated with dignity.”
Speakers and chant leaders during the rally voiced a multitude of specific demands, from extending driver’s license rights to undocumented immigrants to raising wages for adjunct faculty at CUNY.
“CUNY propels six times as many students into the middle class compared to the top ten universities combined,” CUNY Professional Staff Congress union representative Lynne Turner extolled to the crowd. “How is it possible that it pays near poverty pay to thousands of adjunct faculty? We need fair wages for faculty and staff.”
Several people at the rally said Temporary Protected Status is an issue that's close to their communities.
Albert Saint Jean, an organizer for BAJI, the Black Alliance for Just Immigration, said recipients of Temporary Protected Status need more stability.
"We’re really fighting for permanent residency," Saint Jean said. "A lot of people in the Haitian community in particular that I’m part of, and the greater community that’s affected by TPS, it’s a lot easier for folks when they’re able to come out of the shadows and work."
Prarthana Gurung, the campaigns and communications manager for Adhikaar, a non-profit organization that supports the Nepali working population in New York City, said, "The ironic thing is that it’s hard for folks to get time off work. We had a lot of members who really wanted to come out, but it’s a weekday. Especially nail salon workers."
Gurung said her group is advocating for H.R. 6, the Dream and Promise Act, which would put DACA recipients and people with TPS and Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) status on the pathway to citizenship. The Act could open the door to permanent residency for more than 2 million people, including those brought to the U.S. as children.
In spite of many demonstrators' marked antipathy for the police (shouts of “Fuck the police!” and “How do you spell racist? N-Y-P-D” peppered the rally), the marchers remained within designated barricades, and an NYPD spokesperson told Gothamist no arrests were made.
As red flags waved overhead, a New York City Democratic Socialists of America member who said her name was Tiffany, told us that the turnout signaled hope for the country’s progressive wing.
“The left in the U.S. has unfortunately been really decimated by decades of attacks on working class institutions, the stripping of unions of their power, and repression of political groups,” she said. “The left is in a situation where we’re really growing again, and people are really excited to talk about socialism and working class revolution. That’s really exciting.”
Additional reporting by Shumita Basu.