On May Day, Labor Activists Rally In Albany

May 1, 2017

May Day has seen millions rally nationwide for worker and immigrant rights. WAMC's Capital Region Bureau Chief Dave Lucas reports from Albany’s “Day Without Immigrants” protest.

In the late 19th century, International Workers' Day, also known as May Day, was chosen as the day to celebrate labor and the working classes.

In Albany, citizens and activists began assembling mid-morning in front of the Masjid As-Salam mosque on Central Avenue. Mosque president Dr. Shamshad Ahmad said local people were excited about participating in #DayWithoutAnImmigrant activities.    "Combining the labor movement with the situation with the migrants and the Muslim ban, executive orders and proceedings."

Guillermo Maciel, a small business-owner and farmer from Columbia County, puts finishing touches on a marcher's sign.
Credit WAMC photo by Dave Lucas

Three-quarters of a mile down the avenue, the Social Justice Center was a beehive of activity. Guillermo Maciel, a small business-owner and farmer from Columbia County, was putting the finishing touches on a marcher's sign.   "Back in February we started organizing with Cosecha. Cosecha is a national group of volunteers, completely volunteer-led. We're working for the dignity, respect and permanent protection of immigrant and undocumented people in this nation."

Maciel says the group is trying to increase the movement's ranks via mobile technology.   "Text the word 'strike' or the word which means huelga in Spanish, 4-1-4-1-1. This will get you in contact with your local cosecha circle. And what a cosecha circle means, is just a group of volunteers, ready to co-ordinate different activities that help to bring attention to the mission of dignity, respect and permanent protection for undocumented people in the country."

Meanwhile, marchers left the mosque for a short walk down and across the street, stopping outside La Iglesia Sanctuario, The Shrine Church of Our Lady of The Americas, for an interfaith prayer service. After that, they anxiously forged ahead: destination Townsend Park.

I asked Shamshad Ahmad if any members of the mosque reported any recent incidents involving bigotry, racism or Islamophobia.     "Personally we haven't heard, but we feel a little bit in the air. And these are the extremist people. The so-called supporters of Donald Trump."

Ahmad expressed empathy for those folks crossing the border into the U.S. from Mexico. Maciel notes that more than 80 percent of undocumented immigrants are of Latino origin.   "Many of them were an incredible part in delivering the Congress in 2006 to the Democratic Party, the White House to President Obama in 2008. Unfortunately what has occurred was no comprehensive immigration reform, no future steps or real progress toward making people who are living in the shadow, tilling fields, working in factories, working in kitchens, no real pathway to citizenship."

Albany County Legislator Doug Bullock expects the event to wrap up between 7 and 8 o'clock.   "This goes on from Townsend Park down to the capitol. And then form the capitol we'll march through the city to the federal building and finally, in the park next to the federal building, we'll have a wind-up ceremony."

Activists are confident the day's events will send a strong message to Washington and beyond that the people support immigrant rights.