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A cold and rainy day did not dampen the spirits of some 200 marchers that showed up for the annual Movimiento Cosecha May Day event

May 2, 2023

Editor’s note: As a matter of full disclosure, I was an active participant in yesterday’s May Day march, organized by Movimiento Cosecha. 

Last week, we posted an interview with Gema Lowe, one of the volunteer organizers with Movimiento Cosecha about the upcoming May Day march in Grand Rapids, along with a timeline of all the previous May Day marches that Cosecha has organized since 2017.

Last night, despite the rain and wind, some 200 people gathered at Garfield Park in Grand Rapids and marched for 2 hours to demand Driver’s Licenses for All!

As people began to filter in for the march, the GRPD showed up to tell us what we could do, but mostly what we couldn’t do. They produced a piece of paper (although they never gave us a copy), which they read from, with a long list of rules. They were pretty emphatic about us not march onto a highway or even getting close to a highway on ramp. They were also clear about the consequences of our failure to comply. We passed this information onto the leadership.

Before the march began, people gathered under one of the pavilions in Garfield Park, where several speakers addressed the crowd. Most people focused on the current demand of driver’s licenses and the 15 years of hardship they have had to endure, since it was 15 years ago that Michigan stopped allowing undocumented immigrants the right to a driver’s license. As always the stories that people shared were moving and communicated a deep sense of urgency, since not having a driver’s license creates a climate of fear and the real world possibility that people could be stopped, arrested, detained and even deported…..all because they don’t have a driver’s license.

Once the march began, we walked out on the road going east on Burton St. There were people with large banners, handmade signs, and some using bullhorns to lead the chants that would continue for the next two hours. However, before we even walked the length of Garfield Park, several GRPD officers, sitting in their cruisers, began to threatened people with arrest if they didn’t get out of the road. To be clear, Movimiento Cosecha uses tactics that are often disruptive, like marching in the road, because they believe that disrupting business as usual is especially necessary for communities most impacted by state violence, which is the case with the undocumented immigrant community. Movimiento Cosecha will often say, “we will stop interrupting your lives, when you stop interrupting and often destroying our lives.”

Once marchers were back on the sidewalk, they proceeded east on Burton St, often receiving affirming honks from motorists, along with numerous people who came out of their homes to cheer them on, to record the march on their smart phones or to offer verbal affirmations for what they were fighting for. In fact, during the whole two hours that we marched yesterday, at no time did the energy of the crowd dissipate or diminish, despite the fact that was raining the whole time we marched. 

There were a few times where we crossed over Burton St., so people could see the size of the march and to engage in a bit more disruption, as you can see in the photo above, where we crossed at Eastern and Burton. 

We eventually stopped off at a church on Burton and Kalamazoo, so that marchers could use the bathrooms and take a break from the rain. While we were at the church, Cosecha organizers decided to end the march, since people were cold, tired and wet. Cosecha had several vehicles that were following the march in case anyone got hurt or needed a break, and those drivers then began to shuttle people back to Garfield Park, where people gathered again to share hugs and get some refreshments.

What was evident was the lack of white allies at yesterdays march. The small number of white allies has been the case over the past 2 years, primarily over the belief that since there is a Democrat in the White House that the political climate for immigrants is better. This is simply not the reality, as the Biden Administration has continued many of the same policies that existed during the Trump Administration, which we have documented. Movimiento Cosecha has always been clear from the beginning of their movement, when they stated right after the 2020 Election that “Democrats deport us too!” State violence against immigrants is a bi-partisan reality and if you aren’t aware of this, you haven’t been paying attention. 

The participation of the immigrant community, as always, was amazing. The energy and commitment they bring is always an inspiration for anyone who pays attention to movement work. Granted, movements like the Immigrant Justice movement need allies to create enough political pressure to make the necessary changes in policy. However, this movement must be lead by those most affected and those of us who carry a whole lot more privilege need to take our cues from movement organizers if we truly want to be in solidarity with them. Hasta La Huelga! 

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