Standing in front of an electronics store on Broadway in downtown Los Angeles, Nissem Bachsian watched the May Day protesters stream by, as he does every year.
There were immigrant rights groups chanting “Si se puede” — “Yes we can” — and demanding legalization, now. There were labor union members with signs in English, Spanish, Chinese and Korean. There was the May Day Queer Contingent waving rainbow flags. “We’re Still Here 99%,” said a towering sign refering to the Occupy movement.
In 2006, when protesters turned out by the hundreds of thousands to demand immigration reform, the crowds spilled onto Spring and Hill streets, Bachsian recalled.
This year, with a major immigration package being debated in Washington, the size of the march was more typical — a boisterous affair with brass bands, Aztec dancers and street vendors, well-contained on Broadway.
Bachsian, who manages the store, moved to the United States from Israel when he was 5. He said he sympathizes with immigrants who are in the country without proper documentation. But he questions whether street protests make a difference. Every year, the same groups go past chanting the same slogans and nothing changes.
“I can understand where they’re coming from, the hard workers who are not getting papers and nobody’s listening,” said Bachsian, 42. “This has been going on for the past couple years, every year on May 1. Are things changing in their favor?”
Bachsian’s friend, Mike Hen, was more positive. To him, the protest was an important statement.
“I’m so happy that so many people came together for immigrant rights and gay rights,” said Hen, 40, who is also an immigrant from Israel. “This country was founded on immigrants. It’s absolutely needed, that these people get treated properly and are not discriminated against or deported.”