New London CT: CCLeft SDS May Day 2006 Report back
By Daniel Meltzer
CC Left contingent on May Day 2006
In preparation for the Mayday activities, CCLeft SDS cancelled its planned demonstration at the recruitment centers, and consensed to join the march for immigrant rights. This march had been organized by the Centro de La Comunidad, New London’s Latino community center, through local churches. CCLeft SDS prepared with flyers put up all over campus in English and Spanish , a campus-wide voicemail, mass invitations to a facebook.com event, and a banner dropped off of the front of the student center. A concert by campus band Township Rebellion (a Rage Against the Machine coverband) played in front of our banner, and made announcements for Monday’s event. Students who wished to be involved emailed their professors to cancel class in support of the general strike. Some professors did just that, but the others found the student emailers absent that Monday.
We also linked up with the Office of Volunteer and Community Service (OVCS) to have them provide shuttles from campus to the site of the protest. Students would meet in front of the student center at 2:45 and one of a number of vans would take them into New London to march. We prepared signs and an enormous banner for the march and arrived at the student center, only to be overwhelmed by the amount of students who wanted to participate in the march. For many of them, it was their first protest, and they were giddy with excitement. We arrived, slowly, with 4 vans making at least 3 stops at the college to pick up more students. The total student turnout was between 80 and 90, the largest turnout for an off-campus event since I’ve been at Connecticut College. College professors also attended, and many complimented us on our banner, which read “Un Mundo Sin Fronteras” (A World Without Borders) and “Si Se Puede” (It can happen) with a barbed wired brick wall being smashed by a red fist, and said, across the bottom: SDS – Connecticut College – CCLeft.
The community members were mostly from church groups, and were encouraged to bring Americans flags, so there was a little confusion when they saw our red and black flags. A nun asked me about my flag in Spanish, and I replied that I am an anarchist, that the flag of the United States and indeed all other flags to me represent slavery and war, and so I carry a black flag, a flag that is no flag, in protest. She seemed understanding, if taken aback.
During the rally to start the march, we hung out at the park engaging the people around us in discussions about racist politicians and the Iraq war, before some church leaders led the group in song: This Land is Your Land by Woody Guthrie.
We set out to march, but many were nervous: it was their first protest march. CCLeft, a little more experienced in this regard than our peers, began chanting, loudly and energetically.
“El pueblo, unido jamas sera vencido!” (the people united will never be defeated) and “Si Se Puede” were easily recognizable, but CCLeft SDS had made up some chants for that day as well: “Si que si, no que no! Inmigrantes somos todos!” (hey hey ho ho, we are all immigrants) “No que no, si que si! Inmigrantes se quedaran aqui!” (hey hey ho ho, immigrants are staying here). Keeping in mind that the day was not only to protest for immigrants rights, but to highlight that it was Mayday, International Worker’s Day, we chanted: “La Clase Obrera, No tiene frontera” (the working class has no border), to amazing amounts of support.
Throughout, we recieved compliments on our banner, and on the turnout, and curious questions about CCLeft and SDS. Luckily, we had plenty of (anti-)business cards to hand out that had information about CCLeft and SDS. We handed about 30 out to people who looked on interestedly and offered our support for future endeavors that we could undertake together.
CCLeft SDS continued to participate actively by starting other chants: “Zapata Vive! La lucha sigue!” (zapata lives, the struggle continues) and “No pare, sigue sigue” (don’t stop, go on, go on), and taking the first steps away from the sidewalk and into the street. CCLeft, behind its banner, opened up the street by ignoring the visibly nervous police (about 5 of them)and pushing into first the left lane and then the right lane.
One woman turned to me, laughing, when a cop car had stopped in the middle of the road, to tell me in Spanish that we should be walking over the car, not around. The march filled the streets, and the excitement was high, as the crowd realized its immense strength and power.
We stopped for several speeches by church leaders at City Hall, before we continued down the street. The march ended at the soldiers and sailors monument, where we listened to a number of speakers and community leaders.
CCLeft SDS’er and author of this summary Daniel Meltzer spoke over the loudspeaker to praise the crowd on their numbers, their hard work, and their beauty, and to insist that they deserved much more than the McCain/Kennedy compromise. I also brought up the fact that we were not alone, that millions of workers all over the planet that day were also standing up for their rights, and that perhaps after that day a new chapter of history was underway between the community of New London and Connecticut College.
The march ended after this rally, and hoarse and excited, we took the shuttles back home.
This was the best turnout of a Mayday event in recent memory in the Southeastern CT area. The movement for the civil rights of immigrants will become more and more important as allies become more involved in their struggle, and as immigrant communitues realize how much this struggle overlaps with class struggle, our struggle too will become more important. NAFTA, CAFTA, FTAA, and the spread of neoliberal global capitalist hegemony is making countries outside of the US unlivable and driving people from their respective countries into the US so that they can survive. In our struggle against capitalism, we recognize economic refugees as such, and must fight alongside of them in their struggle for rights to free movement in a world without borders. Our struggles are enriched by the other’s experience, and we have a lot to learn. This Mayday was a huge leap in that direction, and the bond can only strengthen after this.