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UCI Students Protest in Santa Ana for Worker’s Rights, Immigration Reform, and Anti-policing

In honor of May Day, over 100 attendees gathered last Friday at Santa Ana’s Sasscer Park to march in protest for better labor and immigrant rights in Orange County and across the nation.

May Day, also known as International Worker’s Day, takes place every year on the 1st of May and is an unofficial holiday during which people advocate for worker’s rights, usually through protests or parades. Its roots stretch back to the General Strike on May 1, 1886, during which workers nationwide protested and demanded an eight-hour work day.

The May Day events in Santa Ana last Friday were organized by the Orange County May Day Coalition, a broad coalition of organizations centered on promoting human rights, worker’s rights and immigration reform.

Participants first rallied in Sasscer Park where community members gave performances, and coalition members spoke to the audience about the history of May Day and the urgent need for progress still at hand.

Joesé Hernandez, a spokesperson for the rally, introduced the rally’s platform of recognizing and improving culture, peace, solidarity, education, migration, restorative justice, health and ecology, rights and corporate citizenship and housing for workers and immigrants.

He also drew attention to current Black Lives Matter movements occurring across the country.

“We are out here in solidarity for worker’s rights, but let it be known: Black lives matter. Brown lives matter. We are in solidarity with those folks in Baltimore that are fighting for their rights — for human rights — because they have been down-pressed for way too long,” Hernandez said.

Hernandez recognized how the lack of sufficient worker and immigrant rights has negatively impacted Santa Ana youth and families. Namely, he said that the current lack of institutional support has deprived the youth of a proper education and has put them at risk towards the school-to-prison pipeline. As for families, he said they are being broken and threatened by rapid, unfair detainments and deportations.
Hernandez and other speakers emphasized the need for Santa Ana to end their collaborative efforts with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or as they phrased it: “to break the ICE.”

A member of the crowd, Yareli Castro, a UCI undergraduate, shared that participating in the march was especially significant to her.

“I am an undocumented individual and a student, and I have always had the need to advocate for my people who have been advocating for our rights for many many years. Although I am not from Orange County, I want to become more involved in this community where I am living and (where) people are being oppressed,” Castro said.

Once the march began, individuals of all ages paraded through the Santa Ana streets for more than a mile. Chants and signs all advocated for justice, peace, and institutional change. They expressed that Black, Brown and all lives matter. Additionally, negative sentiment towards the police was especially present among posters and chants.

The marchers at one point stopped by the nearby address of Ernesto Canepa, a man who was unarmed when he was shot outside his home by the Santa Ana police in late February. He was initially stopped by officers on suspicion of involvement in a robbery. A confrontation ensued, resulting in multiple gunshots killing Canepa.

Standing by a small memorial site of candles and flowers, coordinators of the march asked for everyone to remain in silence for eight minutes, with each minute representing the amount of times Canepa was shot. They then presented Canepa’s family with a wooden cross with a small, golden plaque at the center that read “Murdered by SAPD” below his name.

After marching for a few more blocks, marchers reassembled at Sasscer Park for refreshments donated by the community Marchers stayed to hear further testimonies from the local community, and to watch closing performances.

Overall, the protest remained peaceful and it respectfully paid homage to the roots of May Day, and was a day of solidarity for other related movements and urgent issues.