May Day, Saturday, May 1. It is a tradition that has been around since the 1800s and seems to get stronger throughout the ages. The one that took place this year in Milwaukee was something special, as it marked the end of the Biden Administration's First 100 Days in office.
Voces de la Frontera Action and the affiliated VDLF Essential Workers Rights Network hosted a statewide march and rally in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to honor the contributions and sacrifices that immigrant essential workers have made throughout the pandemic.
"Two-thirds of all essential workers in the United States are undocumented and have been risking their lives and health, and that of their families, while keeping others safe and fed. They deserve to be treated as the heroes they are. A statewide march and rally will be a powerful moment of unity and solidarity with immigrant workers and their families and a historic moment to elevate our demands in the struggle as we join national efforts to hold Wisconsin's members of Congress and the Biden administration to their promises: citizenship for the 11 million undocumented in the second pandemic relief bill. This statewide demonstration is part of a national day of action, which is taking place in Washington DC on May 1.
Voces de la Frontera is also partnering with the Milwaukee Health Department to provide a community vaccine clinic to administer the Pfizer vaccine. Voces recognizes the disproportionate rate of COVID infections in communities of color and is proud to offer this service in the heart of Milwaukee's Latinx South Side community." - Voces press release.
The community block party and vaccine clinic started at 10:00 am, and the attendance was in full force. The marshals all milled about, getting vests handed to them by Primitivo Torres, deputy director of Voces.
The wind blew mightily down Mitchell and whipped the flags that were held high, creating a cacophony of sound, coupled with the cheers and chants. Outside of the Voces de la Frontera office at 733 W. Historic Mitchell st, I caught up with Primitivo, who has consistently led the Mayday march in Milwaukee since 2007. "We wanted minimal police presence this year. Our message is to push legalized citizenship for essential workers. We also have an immigration bill that should be passed by the senate. It puts pressure on the republicans and democrats, and we need Tammy Baldwin to be a champion for us", Primtivo states. "There is also talk of removing driver's licenses for undocumented people, and that's the local fight we are currently pushing," he adds.
Primitivo Torres, speaking on behalf of Voces de la Frontera Action, spoke first to kick off the rally, acting as MC. Veronica Esquivel, Waukesha immigrant, essential worker, and community leader, went next, followed by Pastor Victor Lewis of Souls to the polls and Aaron Eick, educator and Former Union President and Vice President of RUSD and Racine Education Association, Voces de la Frontera (C3) Board Member.
The march left the Voces office, buzzing and trilling up 6th Street, making its way to arrive at the Federal Building, which was approximately 3 miles. There was a Press conference outside of it at 517 E. Wisconsin Ave. It was a very successful May Day, made possible by rallying and sharing personal testimonies to why Biden and the 117th Congress must vote to include citizenship for essential workers in the forthcoming COVID-19 infrastructure budget bill.
Once arrived, Joceline Rocha, a youth member of Youth Empowered in the Struggle (YES), followed by Ashanti Wilson, presenting remarks from Congresswoman Gwen Moore. Livia Rowell-Ortiz, speaking on behalf of Christine Neumann-Ortiz, Executive Director of Voces de la Frontera Action, had the opening remarks.
I had the task of corralling extremist agitators while marshaling. It was a beautiful day.