By Katia Protsenko and Daniel Zarchy
To the tune of drums, cowbells, car horns, lively chants, and the occasional conch blast, the UC Santa Cruz May Day rally streamed passionately through the streets of Santa Cruz to fight for immigrant and worker rights.
The Movement for Immigrant Rights Alliance (MIRA) Coalition organized the march, which attracted over 100 students who met at Quarry Plaza before walking down Mission Street and congregating by the clock tower at the intersection of Pacific Avenue and Front Street. After uniting with another march that moved along Pacific Avenue, the group finally moved on toward the Beach Flats.
The event began at 1:30 p.m. with student organizers who spoke to the crowd, passed out flyers, and led chants. In an introductory speech, Jason Zepeda, a fourth-year student and member of the MIRA Coalition, rallied the crowd to “continue to build struggles like this.”
Zepeda, whose family immigrated to the United States in the 1970s, stressed the need for UCSC students to be more active in local workers’ rights movements.
“We’re the richest UC, but we’re willing to organize and connect with the local communities,” he said, still energized and breathless from his speech to the protesters.
Following Zepeda, several other students rose and fiercely vocalized their beliefs in response to the excitement of the May Day protest.
Lupe Zamora, a member of the MIRA Coalition, is a third-year student who helped organize the May Day march. Zamora stressed solidarity with correlating social justice and rights movements.
“Santa Cruz is separated,” she said. “There’s everybody else, then the Beach Flats. It’s time to unite in one movement. We have one purpose. One purpose only.”
Among the relatively crowded Quarry Plaza, the UCSC College Republicans’ Treasurer, third-year Jeremy Naves, sat at a table to advertise his organization.
“As long as I don’t get spit on, I’m cool,” Naves remarked, aware of the starkly opposing viewpoints between his organization and the protesters.
Naves was sympathetic to the idea of gathering and protesting, but did not fully agree with what students were fighting for in this instance. The problem is an “economic and social situation,” across the border, he explained, and people should protest to solve the problems there.
“This seems like a Mexican movement,” Naves commented. “Not an immigration movement.”
As the speakers concluded their rallies for support, the crowd began its descent down the hill. Protestors held up traffic leaving campus, trapping several buses and frustrating drivers.
Students with skulls painted on half their faces served as monitors, keeping marchers out of incoming traffic. The painted side of the face represented the people who lost their lives trying to cross the border—the unpainted side of the face represented those who had survived, and now live to tell their stories.
“I support the movement,” said Steve Stormoen, a fourth-year student and member of Students Against War. “I’m willing to do whatever they think I can do to help.”
As the protestors walked down Bay and onto Mission, they made several stops, yelling chants for social justice, human rights, and freedom in both English and Spanish.
When asked why he was marching, one protestor simply stated, “Because I’m brown.”
Jessica Thrift, carrying a sign citing the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo as reminder of broken promises from the American government to Latin Americans, felt that community involvement was the key to immigrant rights.
“I’m in support of better immigration policy,” she said. “I think it’s important for everyone to get involved.”
The crowd stopped on Mission, only yards away from the clock tower, and protested in front of a group of children who gathered at the fences of their school grounds. After quietly observing, many children joined in, jumping and yelling, “Fight the power!”
Mark! Lopez, organizing director of the Student Union Assembly, explained that he was marching because he took issue with conditions leading to immigration, and acknowledged that it was time for a change.
“Shit’s fucked up,” Lopez said. “I don’t agree with a lot of what’s going on, even on the ‘pro-immigration’ side. It’s very ‘pro-America,’ which I don’t agree with.”
He continued, “The way [immigration] existed in this continent pre-European invasion was very different. The way it exists now is because of conditions created by the invasion.”