Organized labor and immigration groups are staging dozens of May Day demonstrations in cities throughout the nation Monday, with many groups planning to voice criticism of President Donald J. Trump and his administration.
In Los Angeles, more than 100 groups, representing a wide range of issues, will march from MacArthur Park to Los Angeles City Hall. Organizers expect about 100,000 marchers and have been coordinating for months with police to ensure that the event is peaceful, according to organizers.
So far, Jose Sotelo’s protest sign has held up through two marches. He said he will probably need it for a few more, because Donald Trump is still in the early days of his presidency.
“I’m pretty sure this won’t be the last one," Sotelo said. “He isn’t mending the country; he’s dividing it.”
The sign, which read, “Respect My Existence Or Expect Resistance,” was in English. His wife, Ashleigh Pacheco, carried one in Spanish.
The couple were among thousands who marched down the Las Vegas Strip on Monday afternoon, joining the worldwide May Day marches. This one was largely organized by Culinary Workers Union Local 226, with 57,000 members who fill jobs at many of the large casinos on the Strip.
Dressed mostly in red, they marched along the right side of the road with the lane coned off so as to not close Las Vegas Boulevard to traffic.
The city didn't stop for the protesters, who brought drums, trombones and tubas — sounding like a cross between a mariachi concert and a college football game. At outdoor patios along the Strip, people sipped happy-hour-priced drinks and watched the marchers stroll by.
Marching past the Mirage, Caesars Palace and then down Flamingo Boulevard, they met honks of support from cars along the busy streets. A large Teamsters truck sounded its horn — a bone-shattering honk that was more train that truck.
Sotelo, a 33-year-old algebra teacher in Las Vegas, said he needed to keep marching to let it be known that Trump's polices on immigration, the economy — well, on everything — were unacceptable.
“He’s in over his head,” Sotelo said. “I don’t think he has the slightest idea on what he’s doing or how to do the job.”
Cars replaced protesters by rush hour Monday as downtown L.A.'s May Day march came to a conclusion with all but a few stragglers left on the grounds of City Hall.
About 15,000 people marched from MacArthur Park to Grand Park, next to City Hall, in support of labor and immigration causes. Nearby, outside the Los Angeles Police Department headquarters, a vocal group of counter-protesters demonstrated in support of President Trump.
After hours of verbal exchanges, the Trump supporters walked off toward the federal building with a small group of anti-fascist activists following and LAPD officers closely watching. But no conflict unfolded and the May Day activities ended with only two arrests.
LAPD officers removed their helmets as they assembled outside police headquarters and took a decidedly relaxed stance.
Earlier, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck stopped outside the department's headquarters and surveyed the crowd standing at 1st and Spring Streets. The pro-Trump and anti-Trump demonstrators faced off, separated by yellow police tape and officers wearing helmets.
When asked how the day had unfolded, Beck said: "So far, so good."
Beck said the LAPD anticipated that national issues would "impact" the day's demonstrations, but said so far that had not materialized quite as expected. As he spoke, he turned to watch a smaller group of demonstrators march down 1st Street.
Though the crowd size was far less than expected, protesters said it was worth the effort.
Crecencio Bacilio of Boyle Heights shut down his fruit shop today so he could attend the march with his wife and three sons, ages 10, 8 and 5.
It was a difficult decision to lose a day's business, but Bacilio said he's felt beat-up and run-down since Trump took office.
His children ask if he'll be deported; they panic when they see the news. On this day, he wanted to come out and feel a part of something bigger.
"This year, of all years, we need to be a part of this fight," Bacilio said. "To let people know we are not criminals. We are hard workers and we are going to fight to the very end."
At a May Day rally at Grand Park, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti addressed the masses with a message of unity and a vow to push back on President Trump.
"It matters less who's in the White House," he said. "It's matters who's in this house."
The grandson of an immigrant from Mexico said that in Los Angeles, he wants everyone to feel welcome, no matter where they come from, who they love or how they worship.
Protestors cheered when he promised to protect immigrants without status.
"As long as I am mayor, the LAPD will never be a deportation force," he said. "They will be your police officers."
Carrying a large American flag, Marvin Bonilla stood in front a group of demonstrators and a rap group performing at Broadway and 1st Street on Monday afternoon.
He held up a sign, declaring, "They don't assimilate, they infiltrate MAGA."
Two demonstrators quickly approached him and an intense discussion erupted.
This wasn't the first group to approach the 34-year-old South Central resident during the march.
He had been marching for three hours to support Trump.
"People are hostile towards me just because of my color," Bonilla said. "They assume because I am brown I am supposed to hate. See I am educated. That's the difference between me and my brothers and sisters out here."
Bonilla was born in New Jersey and is of Guatemalan descent.
His family, he said, came here the right way: legally.
"I feel bad for my immigrant people," he said. "They are my people. Then again, 100% of my family came here legally by airplane. We waited, we waited in line."
Bonilla said he is a "new breed of Republican."
He said he has a college degree and runs his own computer software business.
"The silent majority, we're silent no more," Bonilla said.
During the march, he said several people tried to have a "civilized conversation" with him, but it was mostly about them. When it came time for him to speak, he said, "they ain't trying to hear it."
"But that's OK, it's about me. It's about this flag. It's about America," Bonilla said. "If you're not with it, you're going to lose."
As of about 1:30 p.m., police were estimating that about 15,000 people participated in L.A.'s May Day marches—far fewer than than the 100,000 protestors that organizers claimed would come out Monday.
There have been two arrests — one for arson and another on suspicion of "throwing projectiles," according to the Los Angeles Police Department.
Ron Gochez, organizer of May 1st General Strike and Rally, said organizers were hoping for more participation, but "we also understand the current climate of fear."
"The fact that we didn't get a 100,000 out here — that's an indicator of fear," said Gochez, who is a social justice educator at Unión del Barrio.
Still, Gochez said, the turnout isn't one to scoff at.
"Anytime that 15,000 people on a work day decide to join a struggle in 85 degree heat, we are going to call it a victory," Gochez said. "Our message is let's organize for self defense, independently of who's in the White House."
Others said the low May Day turnout is a reflection of other problems in the community.
Elizabeth Cordova, 38, said she has attended most of the May Day marches. Never has she been to one that was so poorly attended, she said.
The low numbers show fear but also ignorance, Cordova said.
"To see not enough support from all our gente is kind of frustrating," she said. "It's kind of like embarrassing because this is our biggest chance to make a difference and to show the government we are not alone."
Cordova, who came to the U.S. from Mexico City when she was 10, marched the rally route with her mother and husband.
"We are living in a time where politics has taken over our most basic rights," she said. "And people are not aware and are not paying attention to what is going on."
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti was scheduled to speak to thousands of May Day demonstrators outside City Hall on Monday afternoon.
Before his speech however, his office released this statement:
"We stand together today to send a very clear and strong message that Los Angeles will stand up against any attempt to scapegoat immigrants, break up families, and create a climate of fear that unsettles our communities and disrupts our economy," the mayor said.
"Americans are taking to the streets of L.A. and cities across the country on May Day because we are uniting around a principle that speaks to who we are: working people who have built their lives in this country deserve protection, compassion, and equal justice.”
One person was arrested on suspicion of arson after they burned a small American flag outside a downtown federal building, authorities said.
The person was escorted off by LAPD officers as groups of demonstrators crowded the area.
At the corner of Spring and 1st streets, about 150 President Trump supporters and self-described nationalists faced off with several hundred May Day protesters, exchanging insults as a line of helmeted LAPD officers kept them apart.
Holding signs that said said "Latinos for Trump," and "ICE ICE baby and "Deport illegals," the Trump supporters shouted "America First."
"We have the right to speak our minds," an African American man with a U.S. flag yelled into a megaphone. "I have the right to protect my family. You cannot take away my guns."
May Day protesters yelled back "Sieg Heil" and hoisted signs that read "If Trump builds a wall, we will tear it down!"
"I am a constitutionalist. I fight for free speech. I would fight for everyone's right to free speech, even the people over there," said Ed Baker, 53, of Antelope Valley. As Baker spoke, he gestured toward the May Day protesters.
"They want to call us fascists and Nazis. We have every race and religion represented and they are here to fight for free speech."
As men dressed in business suits looked on from downtown skyscrapers, 9-year-old Valeria Torres wiped sweat from her forehead and led her family down Grand Avenue.
"I'm here to learn about my rights," she said, carrying a sign she made last night. It read: "What is our future?"
Three other cousins, all under age 11, joined her, along with her uncle, aunt and grandmother.
The children's parents went to work, but they thought it was important for the kids to be here and represent immigrants, even if it meant missing school, said their aunt, Zitlali Mendoza.
"We want them to take advantage of the opportunities they have and to help others who aren't as lucky," Mendoza said. "We want them to learn to express their opinion."
Also attending the protest was Rodrigo Avila, who embraced his boyfriend under the hot sun and listened to a speaker onstage shout "Los Angeles! Make sure Trump hears you, Los Angeles!"
Avila, who owns a restaurant in Chino, said he gave his workers a day off to attend the march.
Back in the 1980s, the native of Mexico said, he was undocumented so he understood how worried many of his workers felt when President Trump took office.
"I felt their anxiety, their fear," said Avila, 49.
The Los Angeles Fire Department is handing out water to protesters and has set up aid stations along the route of the May Day march and at Grand Park, authorities said.
To prepare for Monday's heat, the department has paramedics on hand to treat anyone suffering from dehydration or any other medical condition, said LAFD spokeswoman Margaret Stewart.
Temperatures had climbed to about 80 degrees by early Monday afternoon.
Donald Trump supporters and May Day demonstrators faced off in downtown Los Angeles across from the Los Angeles Police Dept.
Michael Linares, 38, and Ryan Jeffrey, 38, were on their way to join demonstrators at L.A. City Hall when they saw the crowd.
"It was like moths to a flame," Jeffrey said. "They're trolling this event so the story is about fighting."
Trump supporter Penny Chaplan, 57, traveled from San Diego to protest the "silliness the Democrats are behind."
"They don't want to help us when we're down on our luck," she said. "This is our country. If you don't like America, don't come here."
Michelle Alvarado, a 29-year-old Latina, said she was here to give a voice to those like her immigrant parents. But she said Trump supporters had turned the May Day event into a racial issue.
"We just want rights for people in this country."
It's that reason that Richard Rea, 45, says he's uncomfortable to speak favorably about Trump when he's not in settings like these.
"I'm Latino. This is the only place I can wear a Trump shirt."
As two groups of demonstrators — several hundred people in all — marched slowly down Broadway, LAPD Capt. Phil Smith and Lt. German Hurtado hung back in their black-and-white SUV, watching the crowd ahead of them.
So far the crowd was peaceful.
"This is exactly what we want," Smith said a few minutes before noon.
A few officers accompanied the crowd, trailing the group on motorcycles or on bicycles.
Demonstrators had obtained a permit to march along Broadway, but Smith said officers were prepared to adapt should the crowd suddenly change its route.
The goal, Smith said, was to ensure that the crowd arrives safely at its destination: Grand Park.
"A win for them is a win for us," Smith said.
Here are a few of the May Day signs in L.A. and around the state.
In Northern California, one sign read, "The only 'ICE' I need is the one in my raspado"
These protesters in downtown L.A. filled an entire intersection to spell out "Immigration Reform Now!"
Others are focused on the future.
Outside the federal building in downtown Los Angeles, about 150 Trump supporters and anti-communists gathered to march to police headquarters to face off with the leftist group, Anti-Fascist Action.
Los Angeles Police Department officers are waiting to keep the two sides separated.
As the Trump supporters gathered, they blasted the Vanilla Ice song “Ice Ice Baby” — a reference to federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement — to rile their opponents.
The group said Trump is trying to clean up America by getting rid of the "criminal illegals.”
“I am here to stand up for America," said a man who identified himself as Johnny Cadillac, a U.S. army veteran. "I believe the Constitution and free speech and we are exercising our rights."
"I am here to support President Trump as he is the leader of our great country,” said Cadillac, 61, who with his friends attended the rally wearing riot helmets. He added that he was involved in the recent UC Berkeley protest clashes.
"America is great," said Joseph Turner, an activist wearing a baseball helmet. "I am here to show the commies they won't walk unopposed. I don't like the commies,” he said.
Turner is a part the activist group American Children First and said his son is a Marine.
"We expect trouble today," he said.
LAPD Deputy Chief Robert Arcos, who is overseeing the department's handling of the May Day demonstration, said the crowds could be the largest the city has seen in a decade. He estimated that as many as a few hundred thousand people could attend.
Speaking from the LAPD's command center, Arcos said that so far, as the crowds convene on MacArthur Park, his primary concern was the heat and how it might affect the marchers or officers. As the crowd begins to move, he said, his focus will change:
"Once they step off and march, then my concern is how is everybody getting along," he said.
Arcos said officers were told at morning roll-call meetings to be mindful of the "emotion and energy" of the crowd and to keep an eye on the heat.
And, he said, they were reminded that they "don't want to be the story."
So far, Arcos said Monday morning, the day has gone smoothly. When asked if there was a point in the day when he would deem it a success, he smiled.
"Not until I'm home in bed," he joked.
A small “splinter-group” of May Day demonstrators in Oakland was arrested Monday for breaking into an Alameda County building and hanging a large banner protesting immigration enforcement, authorities said.
The four demonstrators were arrested on suspicion of trespassing when they entered the county administration building through a backdoor and “refused to cooperate” with sheriff’s officials before they hung a banner, according to Alameda County Sheriff’s Sgt. Ray Kelly.
Demonstrators from the larger group also chained themselves together outside, but have since moved on with the march, Kelly said.
“It’s a worldwide day of protest. That’s great as long as people are peaceful and nonviolent,” Kelly said.
Demonstrations in both San Francisco and the East Bay were mostly peaceful with no other reports of arrests, authorities said.