“We are tired of hate, so we march”…

PHOTO CREDIT: Dorothy Edwards // Naples Daily News

PHOTO REPORT:  Immokalee community takes to the streets as part of national mobilization for immigrant rights!

Nearly 250 workers and allies call for dignity and justice with colorful march through the heart of Immokalee. 

In conjunction with immigrant communities in over 300 cities nationwide, Immokalee residents took to the streets on Monday to celebrate May 1st, giving the traditional celebration of labor a distinctly immigrant rights twist this year!  From Washington, DC, to Portland, Oregon, hundreds of thousands of people joined in marches, rallies, teach-ins, and vigils highlighting the myriad, essential contributions of immigrant workers to our nation’s economic, social, and cultural life.  They did so to counter recent efforts to dehumanize the immigrant community, and to correct the record on what is — and always has been — the true, positive impact of wave after wave of immigration on this ever-evolving, young nation.

Naturally, the May 1st call to action resonated powerfully in Immokalee, where for nearly a quarter of a century the CIW has driven home the message that workers — whatever their nationality, ethnic background, gender, or faith — deserve dignity, respect, and the full protection of their fundamental human rights.  And, as you might imagine, the march that came together in Immokalee on Monday was one of the most festive in the town’s storied history.

So today we bring you the press highlights and a photo report from Monday’s beautiful march, which drew nearly 250 marchers and countless smiles, cheers, honks, and thumbs up from the rest of the Immokalee community, many of whom were just getting home from a long day in the fields when they came upon what looked like a huge afternoon street party!

Media round-up…

First up, both the Southwest Florida NPR station, WGCU, and the Naples Daily News came out to cover the march.  In addition to WGCU’s interviews with marchers, which you can find here, the Naples Daily News published an excellent story on Monday’s action, titled “Immokalee workers march on May Day, celebrate laborers”, which perfectly captured the simultaneously joyful and determined air of the march:

Immokalee workers march on May Day, celebrate laborers

May 2, 2017
By Alexi Cardona

Adults and kids danced in the street and chanted in the rain in Immokalee on Monday afternoon during a march celebrating laborers and the working class on International Workers’ Day.

Marchers held up signs reading, “My parents are not criminals,” “Justice for all” and “Immigrants get the job done.”

The demonstrators said they marched for livable wages, decent working conditions and, most of all, respect for a marginalized group that puts food on people’s tables, roofs over their heads and maintains lawns and agricultural fields.

“We’re marching as one part of a national day of movement and community support,” said Leonel Perez, a march organizer. “We’re here to unite and keep working and support one another.” […]

[…] Miguel Estrada, a pastor at Misión Peñiel in Immokalee, commended the demonstrators for attending the march when there is so much fear in the community about being stopped by law enforcement and taken to immigration detention centers.

“There is some ignorance surrounding why people come to this country,” Estrada told the crowd. “People think we want to leave our families behind, our homes, our roots. That’s not why we’re here. We’re here to work and to provide for our families and get them ahead. We should have no fear and nothing to be ashamed of.”

Lupe Gonzalo, an organizer with the coalition, marched to fight for her family and to teach her two sons to fight for their futures.

She worked more than 12 years in agricultural fields all over the country after leaving Guatemala and said she knows firsthand the abuses that laborers, especially women, face — sexual abuse, stolen wages, subpar living conditions, discrimination and no protections against any of the abuses.

“We’re tired of hate,” Gonzalo said. “So we march. If we don’t do anything, if we don’t speak out or speak up, we give up. We’re trying to build a path of respect and dignity for workers in the community. In the future, when I have grandkids and great-grandkids, it’s important to me for them to know that they have someone fighting for them.”  Read more

PHOTO REPORT: “May every step we take in the streets of Immokalee today be a sign of our dignity…”

In the week leading up to Monday’s action, the CIW community center was a flurry of creative endeavors, with members painting brand-new signs and building homemade drums for the upcoming march…

On the big day, despite a downpour just ahead of the march (and another, even heavier storm just after it finished), people began to gather at the CIW’s Community Center in Immokalee around mid-afternoon on Monday, arriving on foot, on bicycles, or in cars from neighboring Naples and Fort Myers:

Those gathered were welcomed first with words from the CIW and local political leaders, including the Lee County Democratic Women’s Club President Tamara Paquette (below, second from left) and Haitian politician and farmer, Jean Claude Chasson (speaking, below)…

… and then blessed by local Presbyterian pastor, Miguel Estrada (on left, below), from Misión Peniel, who brought a message of hope and encouragement to the waiting crowd:

The reason we are here today is because we have nothing to fear, and nothing to be ashamed of.  We will not hide under our beds, full of fear.  Fear, on the contrary, compels us to push even harder for our human rights, which every person has.  We are here because we work hard to advance the wellbeing of our families.  

May this beautiful march manifest the truth that we are defending:  That fundamentally, each and every person deserves respect in this world.  We do not need to invoke God here.  Why?  Because I believe that the person who is the first to be present here today, who is walking at the very front of the march, is God himself.  Because God cares about the dignity of people.  So let us go forward with the blessing of God, and may every step we take in the streets of Immokalee today be a sign of our dignity and the blessing that accompanies us…

Finally, the march — led by an indefatigable animation team (below) who provided an unbroken flow of music and cheers to keep the crowd moving (and who traveled the route on an agricultural flatbed truck on loan from a local crewleader) — began to roll down 2nd St in Immokalee, stretching out to cover several blocks of businesses and homes in the heart of town…

… drawing the attention, and smiles, of local Immokalee residents!

But that wasn’t the only response of those looking on from the sidelines.  As the march moved through town, more and more workers and their families joined the joyful crowd.  And as the march rounded the corner onto Main Street, the numbers — and the crowd’s collective energy — had practically doubled!

PHOTO CREDIT: Dorothy Edwards // Naples Daily News

The two-mile march wound through town and entered the final stretch back towards the CIW office, accompanied and supported by the Collier County Sheriff’s Office and, of course, the CIW’s own intrepid security team…

Finally, when marchers arrived at the CIW Office, they were welcomed with cheers from the CIW Women’s Group — many of whom had led the way in preparing for the march in the weeks before — who then shared a closing message.  Here are just a few of the highlights from their inspiring call to action:

Nely Rodriguez:  We see many women here today… We are mothers, and we are workers.  We have families, which compels us to continue fighting and to demand respect from those who wish to erase us.  Many of us are the breadwinners of our homes.  We are strong, and moreover, we make a powerful contribution to the economy of this country.

Silvia Perez:  Today is an important day, both here in the United States and all around the world, in other countries.  Many workers here took today to stay home from work, and we are proud to stand with them today, as parents, as workers.  And we will see you all again soon, because our fight continues!

Marta Morgado:  It is beautiful to see so many people here, to see a united Immokalee.  We are here today because we are fighting for a better tomorrow for our children.  With all of the work we put in today, we know that tomorrow, it will yield greater respect for our work, better wages and conditions.  That is why it is important to go out, to protest, to continue showing the world our faces.  We must keep going forward.

To wrap up today’s post, we can’t resist including a bonus photo album, with plenty more beautiful images from Monday’s inspiring May Day protest in Immokalee.  So sit back, click through, and enjoy!