Downtown L.A. Swells with Tens of Thousands of People for May Day March

A sea of humanity moved through the streets of downtown Los Angeles Monday for the annual May Day march, with organizers and participants saying distaste for the presidential policies of Donald Trump led more people than usual to take part.

Tens of thousands of people gathered in MacArthur Park for the march dubbed "Resist Los Angeles," designed to be a show of "resistance, unity and defiance" against such White House policies as ramped-up enforcement of immigration laws and an effort to build a massive border wall.

"It's about showing that people who are working-class matter," marcher Miguel Cruz told CBS2 as the crowd gathered at MacArthur Park, preparing for the trek to City Hall.

Various organizations that have planned marches in the past joined forces this year, uniting under the banner "May Day Coalition of Los Angeles" and organizing the march from MacArthur Park to Los Angeles City Hall.

It marks the first time in more than 10 years there has been such unity among organizers of May Day marches. Organizers predicted that more than 100,000 people would participate in the "Resist Los Angeles" event. Thousands more gathered for a separate march along Broadway, also bound for City Hall.

At MacArthur Park, musician Tom Morello of the band Rage Against the Machine was among those rallying the crowd before the march began.

Juan Jose Gutierrez, national coordinator of the Full Rights for Immigrants Coalition, said the march will send a message to the administration of President Donald Trump that "our just struggle for comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship is here to stay until we win it."

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Protesters march against President Donald Trump's immigration policy in Los Angeles, California on May 1, 2017, where tens of thousands are expected to take to the streets on May Day | FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images


Organizers also called for a general strike in recognition of May Day.

"Together we know that we can stop a Trump agenda, a Trump agenda that wants to build a wall, not build better lives, but build a wall. We know that if we march on May 1 we can continue to stop an agenda that seeks to penalize workers," said Angelica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights, or CHIRLA.

Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, a candidate for governor, was among those taking part in the march.

"This year you're going to see an unprecedented number of people here in Los Angeles, primarily because of what's going on with Trump and his administration -- the ban, the wall, the talk of deporting 11 million people. Nobody's ever done that anywhere," he told KCAL9. "I think for all of those reasons you're going to see an outpouring of people today."

Marchers carried a large U.S. flag, and many carried signs with messages such as "Rise Up LA," "Stop LAPD cooperation with ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement)" and "ICE out of California."

Among those expected to speak at a May Day rally at City Hall are Mayor Eric Garcetti, County Supervisors Hilda Solis and Sheila Kuehl, various religious and union leaders and Senate President Pro Tem Kevin De Leon, D-Los Angeles.

At 3:30 p.m., another march was held in Boyle Heights, beginning at Cesar Chavez Avenue and Evergreen Street and ending at Mariachi Plaza at First and Boyle streets.

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Meanwhile, a group of pro-Trump activists held a small gathering of its own outside the federal building in downtown Los Angeles. That gathering got tense when a some anti-Trump activists showed up and began exchanging words with the pro-Trump forces. Los Angeles police eventually restored order, and there were no reports of any violence or arrests.

Jo Reitkopp, chair of event organizer "Make California Great Again Inc.," said Trump supporters wanted to "step up and stand for our country and its Constitution ... for which millions of USA military men and women have lost their lives."

LAPD Chief Charlie Beck vowed that officers would be out in force to ensure the demonstration remains peaceful. He asked marchers to remember that his officers are in support of them and are not representatives of the federal government.

"My message is this: I know there are a lot of folks that are upset about recent immigration issues, have other issues with the federal government. You know, remember this is our city. Your police department supports you," Beck said during a recent appearance on ABC7. "We depend upon your cooperation. And let's make this a demonstration of L.A. unity and not the things that divide us."

Representatives from some community groups have called for a general strike in conjunction with the marches, even encouraging students to either not attend school or walk out of classes. There was even a call for the Los Angeles Unified School District to close for the day, but the district rejected the request.

"At the heart of this decision is our unwavering commitment to keep kids safe," LAUSD Superintendent Michelle King wrote in a letter in early April. "Civic engagement undeniably plays a vital role in our democracy, and we embrace the rights of all students, families and employees to unite and magnify their voices locally so that their messages can resonate on a larger scale.

Nevertheless, schools continue to be the safest places for students to incubate an interest in civic engagement, and we encourage all schools to use May 1 as an opportunity to discuss matters of civic importance," King wrote.

Some students have taken part in walkouts during past May Day events, but it was unclear if any similar actions were planned.

Another walkout is also possible at Los Angeles International Airport, where unionized service workers are engaged in contract negotiations.

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