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LGBTs join May Day immigration actions

by David-Elijah Nahmod

Beto Martinez, left, and his partner, Eric Bernacki,<br>along with their dog, Rikki, participate in the May 1 Day Without Immigrants March<br>on Market Street in San Francisco. Photo: Rick Gerharter.
Beto Martinez, left, and his partner, Eric Bernacki,
along with their dog, Rikki, participate in the May 1 Day Without Immigrants March
on Market Street in San Francisco. Photo: Rick Gerharter.  


LGBT individuals, labor union members, and immigration rights activists took part in May Day actions in San Francisco to protest the immigration policies of President Donald Trump, who has called for an escalation in deportations and more restrictive visa policies for foreigners.

Early in his first 100 days in office, Trump signed an executive order banning travel from seven predominantly Muslim countries. Federal judges have subsequently ruled that the policy is unconstitutional.

Hundreds of people opposed to the Trump administration's immigration actions gathered in front of the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement offices in San Francisco's Financial District early Monday morning, May 1. A much larger crowd, estimated at 3,000, showed up for an 11 a.m. rally at Justin Herman Plaza on the Embarcadero and then marched to Civic Center Plaza across from City Hall.

Beto Martinez, 36, and Eric Bernacki, 32, a San Francisco gay couple, participated in the rally and march. In 2016 ICE agents raided the couple's home early one morning and took Martinez, who is from Mexico City, into custody. Bernacki, at first, didn't know where Martinez was taken and wasn't able to communicate with him for four days. Eventually, the couple found an immigration attorney, and Martinez was released.

"I'm marching for all those other families who are detained," Bernacki told the Bay Area Reporter. "And also to spread awareness. It's possible to resist and win your loved one's freedom as I did. A lot of people feel helpless; they don't know that help is out there."

Martinez's case is now pending, with his next court date in 2018. The couple remains hopeful of seeing a favorable outcome.

"I'm here for people who are in my situation," Martinez said. "I want to show them how to be prepared and to be strong."

A number of people showed up at the ICE building holding up photographs of Trump and Vice President Mike Pence with the words "bad hombres" written across them. Trump has used the phrase to refer to Mexicans crossing the border illegally.

"Now is the moment when we have to stand up for our brothers and sisters who are immigrants," said Pete Woiwode, 34, the organizer of the ICE action who described himself as a white, heterosexual dude. "Today we're showing that San Francisco won't stand for these injustices. What we deserve and demand is a country where every family is valued and safe. We won't stop fighting until that day comes."

Numerous protesters painted the words "No Ban, No Wall" in the intersection in front of the ICE building as other protesters blocked the exit gates, which are used to deport people via paddy wagon. The wall reference was to Trump's call to build a fence the length of the border between the U.S. and Mexico.

One of the people blocking the gate was Dalia Yedidia, whose mother is an immigrant from Columbia. Yedidia had come as part of a multi-racial coalition demanding sanctuary for all.

"I'm standing in solidarity with immigrant communities and workers' rights," she said. "We're not going to stop. We have the backs of all immigrants."

Also participating in the rally was Rafael Mandelman, a gay man who sits on the City College of San Francisco Board of Trustees. He told the B.A.R. the protest was "very important" and that it was "great to see organized labor out here defending all workers, documented or not."

Protesters chanted "the people united cannot be defeated" in both English and Spanish. There were a number of speakers who addressed the need to protect immigrant workers and to prevent families with immigrant members from being broken up.

"We call for the protection of workers' rights, sanctuary for all immigrants, and the investment of our tax dollars in social services for our communities, not a multi-billion dollar wall that will cause death and destruction on the border - and we will hold our government accountable to these values," said Josu� Arg�elles of Young Workers United.

There were more speakers at Justin Herman Plaza, where agents from the federal Department of Homeland Security stood guard at the Ferry Building across the street. The guards declined to answer the B.A.R.'s inquiry as to why they were needed, since there was a strong San Francisco police presence at both rallies.

"California is leading the resistance," said Assemblyman David Chiu (D-San Francisco) from the podium. "We are here in dark days. May Day used to be a celebration. Today, it is a reminder that Trump is coming for our families."

Noting that he is working on state legislation to protect immigrants and workers, Chiu warned the president that, "if you want to deport our students and workers, you need to come through us." The crowd cheered in approval.

District 6 Supervisor Jane Kim also spoke, noting she is the daughter of immigrants.

"My entire legislative team are immigrants. My office is closed today; my office is without immigrants today," said Kim. "The work does not end today; the work did not begin with Trump."

In addition to taking part in rallies and protests such as the May Day events, Bernacki urged people to show up on Election Day and cast their ballot.

"Show up to vote and show your voice," he said, noting that the undocumented cannot vote. "Marching is how they are heard. I want to march with our fellow gay community, fellow Latinos and fellow immigrants."




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