A caravan of over 60 cars drove through Long Beach on May Day, May 1, to demand the release of immigrants from detention by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), as well as the suspension and cancellation of rent owed by those affected by the coronavirus.
The May Day Long Beach Coalition usually holds an in-person demonstration on May Day, however, this year the health orders to stay home to slow the spread of the virus prompted folks to ride in a car caravan. Demonstrators were asked not to leave their cars unless asked to do so.
The May Day Long Beach Coalition announced the caravan demonstration via Instagram on April 27, along with an online link where community members could register to participate.
“Join the May Day Long Beach Coalition,” the post read, “for a car caravan in solidarity with renters, homeless residents and working families across Long Beach and the rest of the world!”
Those who registered were sent emails with the location of the caravan’s starting point and a map of the route.
The day of the protest, demonstrators gathered at 4:30pm in the parking lot of 24 Hour Fitness at 110 Towne Center Dr., Compton before leaving together in a single file line of cars.
Participants decorated their cars with temporary markers and signs with slogans such as, “No work? No pay? No rent,” “Workers Unite,” “Cancel Rent,” “Forgive Rent,” “Free Them All,” and many others. May Day Long Beach Coalition activists were also present to help community members prepare their cars for the caravan if they didn’t have their own supplies.
Among the protestors’ demands were the cancellation of rent, debt and mortgages during the stay at home order, the freedom of those in ICE custody, housing for all, as well as “an end to COVID capitalism, racism and xenophobia.”
Along the route were the offices of 8th District Councilmember Al Austin, 6th District Councilmember Dee Andrews and Mayor Robert Garcia, residential neighborhoods, MemorialCare’s Long Beach Medical Center, the Glenn M. Anderson Federal Building and the Long Beach Civic Center.
As the caravan pulled in front of different locations along its route, organizers used bull horns to encourage demonstrators to honk their horns to get the attention of public officials.
“Tell [City Council] to cancel rent, mortgage and debt,” A masked organizer announced over a megaphone to the caravan members as it passed the Civic Center, who responded with loud and repeated honking.
May Day has been a time to celebrate the cause of workers’ rights since the late 1800s. While May 1, 1886 marks the day the Federation of Organized Trades and Labour Unions of the United States and Canada decided on an eight-hour work day, the decision led to violent altercations between strikers and police in Chicago in the following days with fatalities on both sides, now known as the Haymarket Affair.
An eight-hour work day finally became law after decades of protests and strikes, in 1916, with May Day also being known as International Workers’ Day.