Occupy organizes with May Day

Drew Sheets, Opinion Editor

Brilliant colors flashed everywhere as more than 20 Aztec immigrants danced at the front of the May Day march in downtown Santa Rosa May 8. Some of their headdresses were enormous with 5 foot-long feathers reaching some 10 feet in the air and spanning 7 or 8 feet in width as they danced, sang and led the celebration of International Workers Day.

Occupy Santa Rosa (OSR) started their day-long protest at 5 a.m. by hanging banners off freeway overpasses to get the attention of rush hour commuters. OSR picketers waved signs and marched all across downtown Santa Rosa.

The protestors then moved to Courthouse Square where a group of about 40 people beat five-gallon-bucket drums and waved signs that said things like, “We are the 99%,” and, “End corporate greed.” The tone of the protest was like any other Occupy event but with much smaller numbers in attendance.

Most of the people expressed frustration in the banking system and elected officials. A Sonoma State professor, who wished to remain anonymous, blamed everyone from Presidents Obama and Bush to the education and economic system. He said, “We had a groundswell of progressive movement that got Obama elected and people were ready to be mobilized. There were millions of people out ready to be mobilized and the democrats controlled both the house and the senate with a super majority and what did they do? Nothing. Nothing, but give our shit away to Republicans and the banks.” He said he would vote for Obama again simply because he is worried about the Supreme Court appointments.

At noon the crowd went down to protest the city’s anti-camping law by taking naps on the lawn in front of City Hall. Some people made a sign that said “Legalize Sleep” in large bold letters. There were many honks, cheers and support for the protest from passing drivers.

At about 2:30 p.m. the 40 or so protesters walked down to Sebastopol Road and merged with many other organizations including labor unions and the Community for Immigrant Rights. These organizations planned to celebrate May Day with a march through the city starting at the parking lot at the north end of Roseland Avenue.

Speeches from an occupier and other organization leaders discussed how solidarity is mandatory for progress. Voices expressed a need for better education, driver’s licenses for immigrants and fair living wages.
The signs were as diverse as the crowd. One said, “We are all immigrants,” another said, “ So many corrupt officials, so few guillotines.”

The march started down Roseland Avenue at about 3:30 p.m. and was led by Aztec Indian immigrants from Mexico dressed in traditional Indian garb. Almost all of the Aztecs described themselves as being of the Mexica Tribe found primarily in and around Mexico City. Their garb was full of vibrant colors. Dancers were fitted with hand rattlers and most had five or six acorn anklets. Two adult males carried large bongo drums while two young Aztec girls marched behind them drumming the entire time.

The march went from Sebastopol Road to Santa Rosa Avenue via Railroad Street until they made it to City Hall. They marched down to Juilliard Park where a stage and speakers were set up waiting for the crowd.
As soon as the Aztecs arrived, they encircled the bongo drums and danced for about 20 minutes. There were no lyrics but the dancers danced to the rhythm of the drums and received loud applause from the crowd after each dance was finished.

There was another general assembly featuring SRJC students from Occupy Santa Rosa and Community for Immigrant Rights organizer Pablo Rivera.

The talk was similar to the speeches given previously at Roseland Avenue but these speeches had a more historical context. The student speakers told the history of May Day. They talked about America’s origins dating back to the labor movement which started May 1, 1886.

The entire event lasted about three and a half hours and remained peaceful with no arrests.