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May Day 2007 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

“I had to be here for my gente,” said Linda, a Mexican American educator who came from the far south side of Pittsburgh.” Her knee operation did not stop her for coming in a wheel chair and bringing her two children and three grandchildren to the vigil and the march. “I support Pittsburgh Friends of Immigrants and I thank them for organizing this, it is needed in this city,” she said.

Under a beautiful sunny day, this second May Day, International Workers' Day, Pastor Linda Theophilus of PFOI and the Detention Watch Network once again honored the 1.8 million deportees since 1996 in our country. She read personal stories and statements of families separated by raids and deportations and at the end of each, her chant, a national immigrants' rights chant, resounded through the streets adjacent to the jail which were later taken to the streets by the protestors: Immigrants Rights: Are Human Rigthts! Immigrants Rights: Are Human Rights!

One of the highlights of the march was the musical band of young musicians that played Latinamerican tunes, uplifting and encouraging music, which brought the attention of passbyers and vehicles who responded positively and enthusiastically to the message of diversity this May Day.

May 1st, May Day, is a historical day in the memory of Pittsburghers and other cities such as: Madison or Chicago, where undocumented immigrants participated in obtaining legally the 8-hour day work and better working conditions that some workers still enjoy, as opposed to the 10, 12 or 14 hours a day that workers of the 1880s had to work. For that reason May Day is respected internationally and has been now institutionalized by the immigrants' rights community that is responding to the mistreatment of immigrants in our time. In Pittsburgh, members of the local GMB of the Industrial Workers of the World, ( have consistently endorsed PFOI and the national immigrants' rights movement and were part of the crowd this day again. They also pay tribute to the hard working Pittsburgh steelworkers of the past in West Homestead prior to May Day every year.

What was noticeable is that there were more car honks this year than last responding to the signs and banners for immigrants' rights. About 150 people showed for the march, less than last year, but the organizers were satisfied with the numbers, and by the new faces and PFOI supporters.

The crowd stopped across the street from Democrat Congressman Mike Doyle and chanted for immigrants' rights, then it proceeded its route and stopped in front of the City County Building where Ed Bortz, active member of PFOI, read the PFOI's Resolution for Immigrants' Rights which asks for protection to undocumented and documented immigrants in the City of Pittsburgh from repressive measures against them, which has not been been passed yet.

Before arriving to Mellon Square Park, across the street from Senator of Pennsylvania, Arlen Spectors' office, there was a quick stop at the Federal Building to remind our government that it is not okay to separate families in a nation of immigrants.

At the park, Pastor Theophilus reinstated her preoccupation on family separation. Ceci Wheeler, founder of PFOI addressed her statement to Senator Specter, asking him to stop the raids that are terrorizing immigrant communities at all hours of the day, at 4:00 a.m, at home, at work, on the streets (where recently raids have taken place in a Pittsburgh community by local policemen who came in vans and take them away). A few rather sad statements echoed through the park: “No one says anything about it,” “have a heart,” and “do not” support anti-immigrant bills, such as the STRIVE ACT introduced by Congressman Gutierrez and Flake, the Z-visa introduced by President Bush, or any Guest Worker Programs. Ceci concluded her statements indicating that PFOI will continue to demonstrate in front of local legislators' offices and be vigilant to anti-immigrant legislation.

Courtney, a student and member of PFOI pointed out historically the failures of guest worker programs for immigrant workers in America to provide living wages, their exploitation, and how the new guest worker and temporary programs are about the same to the current packages presented by President Bush and the STRIVE ACT legislation. Another speaker, Diane from the Coalition Immokalee Workers spoke about the situation of tomatoe pickers in Florida where these workers had sub-poverty wages, no raises in nearly 30 years and no fundamental labor rights; she continued saying that a series of 4-year national boycotts against Taco Bell and McDonalds finally paid off and these corporations have now changed policies in favor of the workers and a new campaign is active to get Burger King to provide fair wages and conditions for them.

The rally ended past 6:00 p.m. with the demonstrators' commitment to continue supporting the national immigrants' rights movement until a resolution similar to the 1986 amnesty is passed and all immigrants are protected under the law.