Photos and story by Claudia Gonzalez
Merced made history on Friday, May 1st. Organizers, community leaders, residents and students, came together to hold a ‘May Day’ action.
Though ‘May Day’ grew out of the labor struggle, it has grown in recent years to take on a broader social justice meaning. The march on May 1st was led by Live Free Merced (LFM), which seeks to address mass incarceration, gang violence and police brutality in the area. 30 demonstrators gathered on the corner of M and 16th Street to demand justice and to honor those fallen to violence and police brutality.
Among the group were students of all ages, from middle school to college. Weaver Middle School, Golden Valley High School, Merced College, UC, Merced, CSU Stanislaus, and Fresno State were some of the institutions represented.
Protesters walked the two miles to Tenaya Middle School, where they canvassed South Merced for an upcoming forum hosted by the group, which will inform the community about Prop 47, the requirements for reclassification, and the steps to apply. The forum is scheduled for May 20th from 6:30pm to 7:30pm at Merced College in Lesher-111.
The event wrapped up with a prayer, spoken word, and vigil.
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Demonstrators began gathering on the corner of M St and 16th St at 6:00PM. They wore white to symbolize peace and faith.
Group members began holding up their signs which read: ‘Stop Mass Incarceration,’ ‘Justice for Freddie Gray,’ and ‘Health and Justice 4 all’ among other things.
Linked together and with signs around their necks, protesters occupied the intersection for a moment to bring attention to the demonstration.
After finishing their action, the group marched to Tenaya Middle School, considered to some as the heart of South Merced.
While marching, Jesse Ornelas, 40, from the Merced Brown Berets, served as security for the group.
The marchers travelled on the CA-99 Highway underpass, which serves as an unofficial divide between South Merced from the rest of the city.
While they marched. protesters chanted ‘What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!’ Joshio Flores, 29, pumped up the crowd with a megaphone.
After arriving at Tenaya Middle School, the group posed for a picture to showcase a collective sign that read ‘Baltimore,’ a symbol of solidarity with the east coast city.
When the ‘Baltimore’ sign was flipped around, it revealed individual coffins that read ‘Justice for’ along with the names of victims of police brutality and the dates they were killed. The names on the coffins included Freddie Gray, Walter Scott, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, Jesse Hernandez, Mike Brown, Oscar Grant, Earl James Rivera Jr, and Alex Nieto.
Crissy Gallardo, 24, instructed groups of volunteers on how to canvass the area. The team aimed to use this opportunity to inform community residents about an upcoming Prop 47 Informational forum on May 20th.
Participants checked in after canvassing South Merced. Many reported feeling hopeful and excited about the work they are doing.
Candles were lit to honor victims of state violence, both locally and across the nation.
A prayer and final act of solidarity. The group held hands as they shouted Assata Shakur’s famous social justice rallying call: “It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love each other and protect each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains.”