Echoing dozens of protests nationwide against anti-immigrant rhetoric and exploitive work conditions, about 200 marchers took to the streets of Concord on May Day to demand the city protect its large Latino population and enact programs to help low-income residents.
Protesters gathered at Meadow Homes Park at 4 p.m. Monday and marched to Todos Santos Plaza, a city square founded by Don Salvio Pacheco, a Mexican American settler and native Californian. Contra Costa Progressives, Tenants Together and Raise the Roof organized the permitted rally with other Bay Area social justice coalitions.
For hours, the crowd chanted “Si, se puede!” and cheered as speakers took turns speaking out against racism and President Donald Trump. But Concord’s protest, like those in other parts of the Bay Area, wasn’t just about protecting immigrants. It was also about advocating for a national living wage, affordable housing and universal health care — issues that affect “all Americans,” according to organizers.
Several marchers carried signs that read “health care for all.” Many others who attended the rally waved posters endorsing rent control, an issue gaining traction as rents in the city continue to rise between 8 and 15 percent each year.
“We’re marching because we want to show public support for immigrants, low-wage workers, and renters in Concord,” said Bob Lane, an advocate with the Faith Alliance for a Moral Economy. “We don’t believe their voices are being heard by people in power.”
Lane noted that all speakers at the event were community members, not politicians or professional public speakers. The goal of the Concord demonstration, he said, was to highlight marginalized voices within the community.
In contrast to the Oakland and San Francisco demonstrations — which attracted a greater number of people but also resulted in arrests — the Concord event was family friendly and remained peaceful throughout its duration. Parents were spotted pushing strollers in the city square, and small children danced to blaring trumpets and drumlines while enjoying local cuisine.
Sandra Mercado, a Concord resident who descended from immigrants, babysat for two of her undocumented friends so they could participate in the long march.
“They came here, and they both have two jobs and work six days a week, yet it still takes both of them and their two older sons to make ends meet,” Mercado said, as she played with the couple’s 8-year-old daughter. “They’re terrified of Trump — they’re terrified that they might one day be separated.”
“It tears my heart,” she continued.
Scores of young attendees came in support of their parents.
“My parents are undocumented, and there are a lot of people in the community that have fear," said Nancy Yvarra, a Richmond resident. "I’m here because I care about the struggle and want to support my community and my family.”
Three Trump supporters who arrived with signs imploring immigrants to “speak English” were largely ignored by the throngs of demonstrators. Instead, the rally goers focused their attention on a teenager reading poetry about living in America as an immigrant.
— Gillian Edevane (@GillianNBC) May 2, 2017
“We are the voices you never hear,” read Pedro Miramontes, a 17-year-old Concord resident. “You see us as aliens, people without aliases. Your homes we built, your soil we till. We love your country. We are not your enemy.”