Since 2006, when hundreds of thousands marched nationwide, including 10,000 in Santa Rosa, the local May Day march has focused on immigrant and workers’ rights, universal healthcare, family unity and an end to deportations. This year brings an additional focus on police accountability, brought to prominence in Sonoma County with the killing of 13-year-old Latino youth Andy Lopez by sheriff’s deputy Erick Gelhaus.
Historically, the Santa Rosa May Day march, organized by the May 1st Coalition of Sonoma County, has been largely an expression of the Latino community, but the killing of Andy Lopez has brought together a wider response. Many communities have been fearful of the police in recent years, and policing has become a prominent issue in Sonoma County, where many people avoid involving law enforcement in resolving problems because of a perception that the presence of police only escalates the problem.
There have been nearly 60 fatalities involving law enforcement in Sonoma County since 2000. The statistic reflects an increasing number of police killings throughout the United States in recent years, which seems to have become epidemic with the advent of police militarization.
Still, insistence on workers’ rights is the guiding focus of this year’s May Day march. Nationwide demonstrations at fast food restaurants and Walmart highlight the increasing disparity between rich and poor, and the reality of a rapidly vanishing American middle class.
This year’s Santa Rosa May Day march begins at Roseland Plaza, in the old Albertson’s parking lot at 665 Sebastopol Road, near Dutton Avenue. Marchers will gather at 4pm for a short rally, then proceed to Courthouse Square downtown at 4:45pm, where the event continues with speakers and music.
Attila Nagy, of Comité VIDA, and Michael Rothenberg, founder of 100 Thousand Poets for Change, are both members of the May 1st Coalition, which yearly sponsors the May Day march.
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