Marking International Workers' Day, or May Day, hundreds of people in various workers' rights and advocacy groups descended on City Hall after marching through downtown Houston.
They demanded a minimum wage hike, an end to racism and an end to attacks on immigrants and LGBT people from right-wing politicians. While May Day is traditionally a workers' rights holiday, on Monday it was also a day for marginalized communities to demand better from their government representatives.
"We are rallying today to remind all of Texas and the legislators that our rights as immigrants, queer and trans folks and people of color are to be respected," said Guadalupe Rosco, the daughter of Mexican immigrants and an organizer with United We Dream. "Not because of the labor our bodies provide, but because of our humanity.
Other groups present included the Texas Organizing Project, Mi Familia Vota, Fight for $15 and the Service Employees International Union, among many others. They held signs that read, "We are workers, not criminals" and "Build bridges not walls." And they chanted, in Spanish, "We are in the fight!" and "Si Se Puede!" as they marched from Sesquicentennial Park, around the downtown area and finally on the City Hall plaza.
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Marchers condemned the highly controversial legislation, Senate Bill 4, that just passed the Senate, allowing police officers to ask anyone about his or her immigration status not just during an arrest but while detaining people for any reason. The bill also would punish jurisdictions or law enforcement leaders who establish any policies that "prohibit the enforcement of immigration law." One organizer called it "one of the most inhumane things Texas has ever done," and another called it "a hate bill" that will lead to racial profiling.
Last week, Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo lambasted the bill as a detriment to public safety, saying it will create a chilling effect within immigrant communities and cause them to fear reporting crimes to police. He called on Governor Abbott to listen to police leaders of Texas, who have also strongly opposed SB 4 — but Abbott is expected to sign it.
In Austin, more than 50 protesters held a sit-in at a building on the state Capitol grounds that houses various offices for the governor's staff, decrying SB 4 and lobbing a Hail-Mary appeal to the governor to veto it.
See our slideshow of the event here.