Sunday, February 19, 2017

Today's Immigrant Rights Rally In Salem

Hundreds of people turned out in Salem today to support immigrants and refugees and to protest Trump's anti-immigrant and anti-refugee policies. By extension, this rally and others like it are especially important as a measuring stick for resistance to Trump's policies and as a means of measuring the depth and commitment of that resistance. This event was organized largely through social media and wasn't "owned" by anyone. It took place as local resistance to Trump's anti-immigrant policies is reaching a new stage. The rally organizers are to be commended and supported for their good work.

There will be another important rally tomorrow (Monday, President's Day) at the State Capitol at noon.

We heard from many people at the rally that they wished that there was one event rather than two. I hope that this was a matter of people not getting the word out early enough and well enough rather than a matter of political differences. I think that at this point that if a rally is not endorsed by Causa, PCUN and the stand-up Latino organizations around it and the broad coalition supporting Causa, labor and LGBTQIA+ rights then we need to work on unity and direction. Tomorrow's rally has that broad support.

There is certainly much work to be done, as today's rally and many of the speakers today pointed out. It was again great to hear Cara Kaser, DREAMers and others send hopeful messages about building at the base and taking political action. People in Salem who take this seriously need to turn out at the next City Council meeting (Monday, Feb. 27 at 6:00 PM) to support an immigrant rights agenda. Folks can join Salem's Racial Justice Organizing Committee (next meeting is March 8 at 6:00 PM at the First Congregational Church at 700 Marion St. NE), Causa, the NAACP or, if your drive and goals are socialist and leftist, our Oregon Socialist Renewal. What's important is that we organize, as Cara Kaser pointed out. Everyone should belong to something and be active. It was great to hear this message at the rally today.

Speaker after speaker took a positive line. There was much emphasis on what is good and right here in Salem and in the U.S. This is a good place to build from. The speakers were multigenerational, multiethnic and, for the most part, inspiring and good teachers. It was also great to see so many children present.

Where our movement stumbles and falls here are on our approach to slavery, our approach to Native Americans and what sometimes sounds like misplaced patriotism, or even nationalism. We were pretty far into the rally today before anyone mentioned African Americans and First Nations peoples. In all of the talk about immigrants and immigration from white people there was little or no acknowledgement of this land belonging rightfully to First Nations peoples and little or no acknowledgement of slavery. Indeed, the "we are all immigrants" line taken up by whites masks racism and settler-colonialism at some point.

It's hard hearing the narrative that the U.S. is exceptional and great and not hearing a narrative that is explicitly anti-racist and anti-imperialist and a narrative which connects anti-racism at home and anti-imperialism around the world. It's hard hearing Obama get a pass today, as if deportations have not been a problem over the past 8 years. It's hard hearing an attack on the Syrian regime and what was essentially a conservative analysis of the situation there. And it's hard not hearing more emphasis on immigrant women and women of color and working-class issues after the womens' march and at a moment when immigrant women, people of color and class struggle intersect. Teresa Alonso Leon's election was an all-peoples' victory; let's celebrate that and understand its context and mention her and the other brave immigrant women standing with her.

New people coming into the movement may not yet get the nuanced political approaches needed, the need to do short rallies when its pouring rain and cold, and the need to push people to take specific actions. They don't understand that the political left was the glue holding social movements together before a liberal establishment, union leaderships included, "NGOized" social movements. Still, people show up with signs, demands, passion and a desire to take meaningful action which often transcends what rally organizers call for and expect. Our vision of the left is one in which people---women, people of color, workers, youth, LGBTQIA+, immigrants and others--- come together to learn and to fight back with their passions and their own multiracial and feminist leadership in place.

 Photos from Facebook posters.



  1. On why two rallies: you answered your own question. I asked 2/19 folks over a week ago on Facebook: are you working with actual immigrant groups, or immigrant justice organizations, or maybe ANY groups at all? They "liked" my question, but gave no answer. This action was indeed "organized largely through social media", rather than allies working face to face with, and TAKING LEAD FROM, immigrants. Points for effort, but, in the end, not a real step forward for building an immigrant justice movement.

  2. Scott, I am one of the organizers and I am sorry if we missed your question on FB. We are very clear that we are a grassroots group, and to your point of TAKING THE LEAD FROM immigrants, the group that put this together is a group of immigrants (including me) and refugees - that is as close to taking the lead from immigrants as one can get. I am not sure how you can conclude that this is not a real step toward building an immigrant justice movement. While we were not officially linked to organized groups, we did connect with some of them, and in fact, we did get speakers from CAUSA; and speakers who are DACA recipients. I would have thought that you would encourage movements like ours, as there is a deep need for people to do an active part, rather than just turn up at rallies. We have been clear that this was a grassroots effort, and that holding a rally on 2/19 allowed attendance from those who could not make it to the 2/10 march. I hope that clarifies.

  3. Hi Scott, I am sorry I missed your question on FB. Another person also asked the same question, and our reply, reflecting the actions we took, was that we are a grassroots effort, and are not associated with any organized group. We did connect with the organized groups, and had a speaker from CAUSA, and from NAACP. We also had speakers who are DACA recipients. So yes, we did work with the organized groups. On your comment on TAKING LEAD FROM immigrants, our core task force comprised of two immigrants, two refugees and a Latina from New Mexico. That is as close to taking the lead from immigrants (and refugees, and an American of Latino descent) as you can get. Pardon me, but I do not quite understand how you see this as "not a real step toward (sic) building an immigrant justice movement". Movements that have changed history came from the grassroots. On the point about having a rally on 2/19 and a march on 2/10, our intention was to allow those who could not attend the 2/20 march to have their voices heard on 2/19. Not everyone gets President's Day off. I look forward to your support as this grassroots movement gains momentum. We only win if we stand united, and those who wish to be actively involved (and not just attend rallies/marches) should be encouraged to do so. We intentionally made the 2/19 rally as inclusive as possible. You can tell that from the line up of speakers (which we have posted on our FB site). So many came up to us to express how our rally felt positively different from the bigger rallies/marches. In fact, people were so moved, they can't seem to stop posting their experience and photos on our FB site. Thank you.