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On May Day, Charlotte Rally Focuses On Immigrant Workers

May 1st is celebrated around the world as International Workers Day. In Charlotte and around the state, rallies showed support for a particular class of workers - immigrants. About 250 people marched in uptown Charlotte.

Immigrants, their families and supporters chanted in Spanish as they walked … "Si, se puede! … Yes, we can."  That was the rallying cry of activist Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers back in the 1970s. A new generation of immigrants and activists has revived it in their fight for rights and recognition.

Before the march, Joshua Herrera of Charlotte was with his family at Marshall Park, next to the Government Center. His mother is from Mexico, and his stepfather from El Salvador. He was born in Raleigh.  

"Seeing how it is now, like in the world, people are getting deported, people are getting taken away from their families. I don't support that. To me, family is the most important thing to everything else," Herrera said. 

Several groups organized the Charlotte protest - Comunidad Colectiva, Alerta Migratoria, Action NC, and the Southeast Asian Coalition. Cat Le, whose family is Vietnamese, was one of the organizers.  

"It's called a day of resistance, but it's also may day, international workers day, all of that," Le said. 

She and others want city and county officials to do more to support immigrants - both legal and unauthorized. For one, they want the county to abandon the 287(g) program, in which the sheriff’s department informs federal authorities of any people arrested who are here illegally.   

"This year, we decide to focus it on immigrant workers specifically, and the fact that immigrants are still  under attack, not only by the national administration, but by our local elected officials as well as, in North Carolina, our state elected officials," says Elisa Benitez, of Alerta Migratoria. 

She's talking about proposed bills at the state legislature, including one that would take away funding from "sanctuary cities.” These are local governments with policies protecting unauthorized residents. Such policies are actually illegal in the state - they were outlawed two years ago. But some lawmakers say Charlotte isn’t doing enough to help the federal government.  

The crowd of 250 was a bit of a disappointment for organizers. They had hoped to match the 8,000 who came to February's "day without immigrants" rally in Charlotte. But this day was different - fewer businesses gave workers the day off to march. And rain and wind kept others away.  

Protesters marched past the Epicentre in uptown Charlotte Monday afternoon.
David Boraks / WFAE
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WFAE
Protesters marched past the Epicentre in uptown Charlotte Monday afternoon.
Oliver Merino of Comunidad Collectivo addressed protesters before the march at Marshall Park.
David Boraks / WFAE
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WFAE
Oliver Merino of Comunidad Collectivo addressed protesters before the march at Marshall Park.
Police officers kept marchers out of the street.
David Boraks / WFAE
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WFAE
Police officers kept marchers out of the street.
Hector Vaca of Action NC (right) leads a protest Monday morning outside Bank of America headquarters in Charlotte. The group targeted both BofA and Wells Fargo for political donations and funding immigration prison operators.
David Boraks / WFAE
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WFAE
Hector Vaca of Action NC (right) leads a protest Monday morning outside Bank of America headquarters in Charlotte. The group targeted both BofA and Wells Fargo for political donations and funding immigration prison operators.

Copyright 2017 WFAE

David Boraks is a WFAE weekend host and a producer for "Charlotte Talks." He's a veteran Charlotte-area journalist who has worked part-time at WFAE since 2007 and for other outlets including DavidsonNews.net and The Charlotte Observer.
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