“Fed up, can’t take it anymore,” shouted the 75-person crowd that paraded from the Pardall Tunnel to Storke Plaza yesterday. Confused cyclists swerved off the bike path to avoid the mass, which marched to commemorate May 1, International Worker’s Day.
Participants began congregating by Pardall Tunnel at 7:30 a.m., and by noon, a group of 40 students, staff and professors departed toward campus with cardboard signs and megaphones in tow, snowballing support along the way. Many wore black scarves and chanted slogans to draw the attention of passersby to undocumented worker and immigrant issues.
“We need to acknowledge the invisible immigrant workers who keep society running,” rally organizer and third-year sociology major Natalie Engber said. “The more people know about these issues, the more they’re involved.”
Once in front of Storke Tower, the crowd listened to speeches by professors from the Asian-American Studies, Sociology and Chicano/Chicana Studies Depts.
Diane Fujino, an Asian American Studies professor, discussed action students can take in response to legislation like House Resolution 4437, which last year’s “Great American Boycott” protests focused on.
“When we see unjust laws, we have not only a right, but a responsibility to do something about it,” Fujino said.
House Resolution 4437, which was passed Dec. 16, 2006, stipulated increased control along the Mexico and United States border, forced detained illegal immigrants into federal custody and mandated employer verification of employee citizenship.
However, the turnout of this year’s protest on campus was smaller than last year’s 150 as HR 4437 died in the Senate last year, Engber said.
“Last year House Resolution 4437 was coming out and there was a huge community response,” Engber said. “This year, there’s not that type of legislation to rally around.”
This year, Engber said protesters marched for fair wages and equal human rights for illegal immigrants and undocumented workers.
“Worker’s rights are human rights,” Engber said. “We want to end the deportations and the raids because they dehumanize people. I believe that people should have the right to cross borders freely, to have access to education and to make a living wage.”
Bob Pinto, a UCSB groundskeeper and American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union member, said only he and two other workers attended the rally yesterday because most maintenance and custodial employees needed to continue working.
“It’s virtually impossible for workers to lose a day’s pay and come here,” Pinto said.
Last week, rally organizers delivered a resolution to Executive Vice Chancellor Gene Lucas asking for the administration to prevent any type of retaliation against workers who attended the rally yesterday. However, the UCSB administration replied saying that there would be no reprisal for worker attendance at the rally, and in fact such a response would go against UC policy.