Donald Trump became a unifying force on May Day in downtown L.A.


Thousands of people took to the streets in the annual May Day marches in downtown Los Angeles and Boyle Heights on Sunday to advocate for immigration reform, police accountability and an end to racism.

The diverse array of protesters shared one thing in common: all were offended by something Donald Trump had said. The Republican presidential candidate literally loomed over one of the rallies in the form of a giant balloon effigy carrying a Ku Klux Klan hood.

“He’s plastic, he doesn’t have a heart, he doesn’t have a brain,” organizer Francisco Moreno said, as he gestured at the swaying effigy. “We’re not going to vote for Trump!”


Even small children were shouting anti-Trump slogans as protesters assembled in two groups in downtown Los Angeles at noon. They marched parallel routes that ended at Grand Park and Olvera Street, blowing horns, riding bicycles and waving signs supporting various causes.

One banner seemed to sum up the rallies’ many fronts.

The International Workers May Day march and rally and the Full Rights for Immigrants Coalition march and rally were held in downtown L.A. on Sunday.

“Stand with immigrants, black lives, Muslims, LGBTQ people and low-wage workers!”

Elmer Deleon, a 37-year-old mechanic from Huntington Park, was one of the many immigrant protesters who said they were galvanized into marching by Trump’s campaign for president.

Deleon said he experienced a political awakening this year as he listened to Trump’s criticisms of immigrants. He brought his wife and three children to the march to show solidarity with other immigrants who have yet to gain work papers — an experience, he said, that changed his life.

“All we want to do is work,” Deleon said. “We start from the bottom and try to build something.”

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To Gloria Carrasco, an undocumented house-cleaner from Los Alamitos, Trump represented a fundamental challenge to immigrants’ rights and her status as an American. On Sunday, she tied an American flag scarf around her neck, climbed up on a truck festooned in red, white and blue and told her story in Spanish.

“I’m not a drug addict, I’m none of what [Trump] says,” Carrasco shouted. “I want immigration reform.”

Carrasco came to the U.S. 27 years ago to find a better life for her family. When her father died seven years ago, she couldn’t return to Mexico to see him because she was afraid she wouldn’t make it back without papers. Things would only get worse for her with Trump as president, Carrasco said.

As the marchers passed the Los Angeles Police Department detention center, dozens of Black Lives Matter protesters called on the crowd to chant the name of Wakiesha Wilson, a 36-year-old mother who died in police custody at the facility in March.

“No group is omitted” from police brutality, said Hirashio Wilson, 29, as he lifted a yellow banner that read “D.A. Lacy file charges now.”

Tim Vanco, a white UCLA student who identified himself as gay, marched to demand a living wage. His friend Angel Contreras, a Mexican American, was worried about how a Trump presidency would affect his family. They were joined by Grace Nsavu, a 22-year-old Congolese immigrant who said Trump was magnifying racism, bigotry and hatred with his rhetoric.

“It doesn’t matter what you are supporting politically,” said Vanco, 20, a Chicago native. “As long as you are fighting for progressive causes and human rights.”

Below a thicket of wagging Mexican and American flags, Eydee Rivera held her daughter, Arlette Martinez, tight in her arms.

Rivera, who is from Puerto Rico, dressed her daughter in the colors of the Mexican flag to acknowledge her roots. Arlette’s father is a Mexican immigrant in the U.S. illegally. A Trump victory, Rivera fears, would mean a family split and broken by deportation. She called the possibility of a Trump presidency a “disaster for the United States.”

“He’s ignorant,” Rivera said of the candidate. “We’re human beings.”

Los Angeles police made no arrests at Sunday’s rallies, which included another march through Boyle Heights that ended at Mariachi Plaza.

“It was a peaceful 1st Amendment exercise, with no incidents,” said Sgt. Barry Montgomery, an LAPD spokesman.

Authorities wrote 129 parking citations and impounded 59 cars improperly parked in downtown along the march routes, Montgomery said.

Sunday’s marches drew a significantly smaller crowd than in previous years. Police did not provide official crowd estimates, but organizers at both downtown rallies estimated that 6,000 people had turned out.


Ten years ago, did you march in the biggest protests California has ever seen? Share your story for a project the Los Angeles Times is doing on the legacy of the marches. Fill out this form or text “march” to (213) 296-0214.

Times staff writer Frank Shyong contributed to this report.

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