May Day protesters call for reform, voice frustration
NEW YORK/CHICAGO (Reuters) – Demonstrators rallied at May Day events across the nation on Sunday, calling for reform on a host of issues and voicing frustration with President Barack Obama.
May Day events in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Boston, Milwaukee and Madison, Wisconsin were considerably smaller than in past years, as some of the hope for reform among Democrats that helped put Obama in the White Househas faded.
Marchers in Chicago, where Obama cut his political teeth, expressed disappointment with aspects of his presidency, including his failure to close the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay.
“Obviously campaign promises and realities are completely different things,” said Ricardo Ortiz, a student from DePaul University. “But do I think things could have been done better? Yes.”
In New York, demonstrators called for immigration reform as well as support for environmental causes, tax reform and changes in U.S. defense policy.
Demonstrators carried signs reading “Legalization now, stop the deportations” and chanted “We are people, we are not illegal” as they marched down Broadway.
“Schools and hospitals are closing, jobs are being cut everywhere, and Wall Street guys are making money hand over fist,” said Ronny Williams of New York City.
“And then Washington’s spending billions on wars in places like Libya. Half the people I know are out of work,” he said.
Some carried signs pairing Obama with former President George Bush. “Obama you are not better than Bush,” read one sign.
Immigration reform was front and center in Chicago, where about 300 demonstrators gathered on the city’s west side before marching downtown.
Immigration reform is an issue of concern to Hispanic voters, whose support Obama needs for reelection in 2012.
“A lot of Hispanic people voted for him, but he hasn’t delivered on what he promised,” said Raquel Valentin, who moved to Chicago from Mexico 22 years ago.
Marchers in New York and Chicago were largely upbeat, blowing horns, drumming and chanting. They represented groups including domestic workers, environmentalists, gays and lesbians and even street vendors who they say are subject to unjust arrests.
One year ago Sunday, a vendor in Times Square helped avert disaster when he alerted police to a smoking vehicle that turned out to be a car bomb.
Police reported no incidents at either event.
(Writing by James B. Kelleher, editing by Ellen Wulfhorst)