A Day of Protests in New York

A Brooklyn protestor at a $15 minimum wage/Black Lives Matter rally (Photo by Ramon Vera via El Diario)

A Brooklyn protestor at a $15 minimum wage/Black Lives Matter rally. (Photo by Ramon Vera via El Diario)

Around New York City on April 14, people rallied in favor of raising the federal minimum wage, called for the closure of Rikers Island, and demonstrated against Donald Trump. Diario de México USA and El Diario/La Prensa report.

 

Héctor Calderón, of Diario de México USA, reports on the Trump protest held in front of the Grand Hyatt Hotel on East 42nd Street. 

The protest was organized by several community organizations, including the ANSWER Coalition, the New York Ayotzinapa Collective and the Black Lives Matter movement.

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“This candidate’s position is wrong. It would be a disgrace if he made it to the general election. He is extremely racist against Mexicans and people of other nationalities,” said Alfredo Zúñiga, born in New York City.

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“We are against his racist, divisive and unsettling posture against not just Mexicans but women,” said Isabel Zúñiga.

“We have gathered today to forcefully repudiate the racist position of this candidate who is proposing to build a wall and make all Mexicans pay for it. We also strongly reject the idea to deport 11 million human beings. We reject his presence and we are in favor of comprehensive immigration reform,” said Antonio Arizaga, from the Frente Unido de Inmigrantes Ecuatorianos (United Front of Ecuadorian Immigrants).


Ana B. Nieto of El Diario/La Prensa reports on the converging protests of the Fight for $15 and Black Lives Matter movements. 

“I work because it keeps me in shape and because I need it,” said 83-year-old José Carrillo. The Peruvian immigrant is one of the most recognizable faces in the demonstrations demanding a $15 federal minimum wage that have swept the city for three and a half years. The McDonald’s custodian was one of the first people to join the protests, and he continues to attend. While he said that he is happy about New York state’s recent approval of the $15 minimum wage, Carrillo’s income is still lower than last year: Although his pay has been raised to $10.50 per hour, “they are giving me fewer hours, so now I only work two days a week.”

During yesterday’s event, Carrillo ‒ who must use housing and food subsidies ‒ agreed with the diverse demands for justice spelled out by the marches that walked through the city’s streets. The demonstrations were held just a few days before the primary in which the Democratic Party has supported the fight for $15 while Republicans oppose it. Gov. Andrew Cuomo joined the protest held at 4:00 p.m. in front of the 42nd Street McDonald’s, site of the first demonstrations for a federal minimum wage increase.

The demand for justice and dignified compensation for all low-wage workers was part of a series of nationwide demonstrations held under the “Fight for $15” motto. The raise has already been approved locally in California and New York states.

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However, in New York, the marches took on added meaning as the Black Lives Matter movement also protested to follow up on the trial against police officer Peter Liang, who killed Akai Gurley. The young man was shot by the policeman on the steps of the Pink Houses complex.

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“The fight for $15 is not different from the fight against police brutality,” said one of the demonstrators who attended the protest held yesterday at the Fulton Mall McDonald’s in Brooklyn, near the court where Officer Liang is being tried. “The system oppressing workers and training the police is the same one.”

A childcare worker spoke to the 300 people gathered, saying that “police and economic violence are part of everyday life for communities of color.” As several pedestrians stopped to hear her talk, she added: “We have nothing to lose but our chains, and that’s why we’re fighting.”

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Workers held a moment of silence in remembrance of Jeffrey Pendleton, a Burger King worker from New Hampshire and member of the Fight for $15 movement who died under police custody in March as he was held for possession of marijuana, a minor offense. Pendleton had been unable to afford the $100 bail.

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(Photo by Héctor Calderón via Diario de Mexico)

(Photo by Héctor Calderón via Diario de México)

Also on April 14, representatives from 60 organizations rallied on the steps of City Hall to demand the closure of Rikers Island, writes Héctor Calderón, of Diario de México USA, where they say the human rights of inmates are threatened.

“We need a new direction in New York City’s criminal justice system. Rikers Island does not need a reform: Violence and corruption are the prevailing culture at Rikers. What we need is for that jail to close. There are many people in there who do not need to be in jail but urgently need opportunities to work and get an education,” said Alyssa Aguilera, co-executive director of Vocal Nueva York.

Demonstrators said that nearly 85 percent of the inmates in Rikers are awaiting their day in court and have not been convicted of a crime.

They added that most of them are too poor to post bond. A large number of people detained for minor offenses are given bails of around $1,000.

Additionally, the protesters pointed out that, aside from the human rights violations reported at the prison, the complex represents an excessive expense for taxpayers.

“The annual cost per prisoner is $177,000. These resources could easily be used to fund social programs. The mayor has the authority to do it,” said Esteban Rodríguez, a demonstrator at the rally. [Editor’s note: The actual costs are close to $168,000.]

Iván Pérez ‒ born in Puebla, Mexico ‒ said that he knows firsthand what it means to be detained at Rikers.

“These people need to be offered practical solutions, treatment and guidance. In my case, unfortunately, my record is now damaged. That’s why I support the closing of Rikers.”

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