May Day Isn’t Just About One Day—It’s About a Movement

Sarah Jaffe May 1, 2017

Gloribell Mota is an organizer with Neighbors United for a Better East Boston and serving as the Boston coordinator for Cosecha’s May Day event. (Movimiento Cosecha/ Twitter)

Wel­come to Inter­views for Resis­tance. Since elec­tion night 2016, the streets of the Unit­ed States have rung with resis­tance. Peo­ple all over the coun­try have wok­en up with the con­vic­tion that they must do some­thing to fight inequal­i­ty in all its forms. But many are won­der­ing what it is they can do. In this series, we’ll be talk­ing with expe­ri­enced orga­niz­ers, trou­ble­mak­ers and thinkers who have been doing the hard work of fight­ing for a long time. They’ll be shar­ing their insights on what works, what does­n’t, what’s changed and what is still the same.

Glo­ri­bell Mota: My name is Glo­ri­bell Mota. I am an orga­niz­er with Neigh­bors Unit­ed for a Bet­ter East Boston and serv­ing as the Boston coor­di­na­tor for Cosecha’s May Day event.

Sarah Jaffe: You had a pret­ty dra­mat­ic action last Mon­day in Boston. Can you tell us about it?

Glo­ri­bell: Yes, on Mon­day we had an action at the Suf­folk Coun­ty cor­rec­tions facil­i­ty that is also held as a deten­tion cen­ter. The deten­tion had about 200 detainees at the time and we have seen a wave of kind of tar­get­ed, but it is just kind of a con­tin­u­a­tion of detain­ing immi­grants for one rea­son or anoth­er where it was this time around were activists that were speak­ing out. Young activists that are part of orga­niz­ing in Ver­mont, and Sul­ly and Alex and Enrique who had been fight­ing for immi­grant rights were detained. Two have been released, but one is still being detained.

This is part of a larg­er thing, that we just no longer can set­tle for more detainees and depor­ta­tions in this man­ner at all and we want per­ma­nent pro­tec­tions for all. This action where 20 peo­ple got arrest­ed, there were over 100 folks there over two hours just real­ly want­i­ng to send a mes­sage but even more, hop­ing that we could shut down the deten­tion cen­ter and stop depor­ta­tion and real­ly do per­ma­nent pro­tec­tions and immi­gra­tion reform for all. 

Sarah: Tell us a lit­tle bit about how that action came togeth­er, the plan­ning and work that went into that.

Glo­ri­bell: Cosecha move­ment is a non-vio­lent move­ment that is look­ing to the respect and dig­ni­ty and get­ting per­ma­nent pro­tec­tion for 11 mil­lion undoc­u­ment­ed in this coun­try. Since the begin­ning of this year, we have been ask­ing for a strike for May 1st. We are real­ly ask­ing for a one-week strike, if that needs be, to show our eco­nom­ic pow­er. Dur­ing these months we have been try­ing to illus­trate our mes­sage, what we are ask­ing for, what we are ask­ing for May 1st, and what we saw Feb­ru­ary 16th organ­i­cal­ly come up from the com­mu­ni­ty. Basi­cal­ly, that they are ready and that we have to fol­low their lead and pro­vide that support.

A lot of allies, orga­niz­ers, cler­gy mem­bers, youth, indi­vid­u­als, for­mer undoc­u­ment­ed came togeth­er for this Mon­day action to stand against what we feel is not moral and, as well, to make sure that those that are detained and those that are prac­tic­ing their first right and speak­ing up against anti-immi­grant rhetoric, that we stand with them and that we are resist­ing any depor­ta­tions, deten­tion and unjust pro­ceed­ings that we also saw in Lawrence where peo­ple were going to their court hear­ings and auto­mat­i­cal­ly were not even allowed to do the process and were detained. Some­thing that was not a prac­tice [pre­vi­ous­ly]. I think this action that we just did was to go to the deten­tion cen­ter and par­tic­u­lar­ly ask Suf­folk Coun­ty that rep­re­sents Boston and Chelsea, both cities that the may­or and the local body has said are sanc­tu­ary to no longer serve as a deten­tion cen­ter for the state.

Sarah: That brings up the ques­tion about sanc­tu­ary which is obvi­ous­ly a move­ment and a set of prac­tices and laws that have spread since the Trump admin­is­tra­tion, but as you note here, with things like this deten­tion cen­ter, there are obvi­ous­ly still holes in what kind of pro­tec­tion is pro­vid­ed by the sanc­tu­ary policies.

Glo­ri­bell: Yes. I think what we have seen with sanc­tu­ary is that it is not a — I think each munic­i­pal­i­ty is doing their own, but I think in essence it is show­ing sol­i­dar­i­ty with the com­mu­ni­ty, but we want to move away from the sym­bol­ism and real­ly show what munic­i­pal­i­ties and states could do. They could do it by not par­tic­i­pat­ing in con­tracts to serve local resources for deten­tion cen­ters and to real­ly think about what we could be invest­ing in, par­tic­u­lar­ly in this prison com­plex indus­try that has a lot of holes, even for those that live here and are U.S. cit­i­zens. We under­stand that the deten­tion cen­ter and immi­gra­tion, and we know that this admin­is­tra­tion wants to crim­i­nal­ize every­one from the immi­grant com­mu­ni­ty to the Mus­lim com­mu­ni­ty, and we have to say that that is not the indus­try that we want to move for­ward with. That is not what we are invest­ed in. We want to invest in families.

Sarah: The move­ment had a legal vic­to­ry again this week where a judge halt­ed Trump’s order to cut off fund­ing to sanc­tu­ary cities. I won­der if you could talk about how these legal strug­gles and the strug­gles in the street and with direct action and strikes are complimentary.

Glo­ri­bell: Yes. It is fun­ny, my son sent me the arti­cle. He was like, This is a win for sanc­tu­ar­ies and a win for your move­ment.” I am like, Of course.” This idea that local gov­ern­ment is not going to get resources because of the sanc­tu­ary — and each munic­i­pal­i­ty is very dif­fer­ent. We saw this with legal actions when the Mus­lim ban came out and Cosecha Boston here, the Cosecha move­ment, called for the air­port protests and we saw our elect­eds” come. It wasn’t called by the elect­eds.” It wasn’t called by any one leader. It was called by a move­ment say­ing, We can’t … We will always have this lit­tle piece­meal poli­cies that don’t get to the root of the prob­lem. We need per­ma­nent pro­tec­tions for all.”

A cer­tain crime was com­mit­ted, that is why we have a crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem. If there is a flaw in the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem, then we fix that because we know there is. As well as, they are see­ing in terms of peo­ple that are liv­ing in these local­i­ties, some of them entre­pre­neurs, their kids are in schools. We are part of that com­mu­ni­ty. To say that local police have to enforce immi­gra­tion, that is not their role. I think that is the con­nec­tion. In dif­fer­ent mes­sages and dif­fer­ent ways, but at the end it all comes to the root that we need per­ma­nent pro­tec­tion for all. What we are say­ing at Cosecha is that if we don’t get that and we are basi­cal­ly try­ing to main­tain our respect and dig­ni­ty and what we are still fight­ing for is that we will use our eco­nom­ic non-coop­er­a­tion and ask for a one-day strike on May 1st and if we have to, it will be a two day[s]. And if two doesn’t work, it will be three. Basi­cal­ly, we will do what we need to, and we are pre­pared to make that hap­pen. That is what we are ask­ing for May 1st. That is when you are see­ing these actions and hope­ful­ly, the legal com­mu­ni­ty, they are hold­ing up that fight, also get­ting to that con­clu­sion, as well.

Sarah: There have been lead up actions going on around the coun­try this week, right?

Glo­ri­bell: Yes. This is a nation­al move­ment. There is Cosecha here in Mass­a­chu­setts, in New Jer­sey, Flori­da, Min­neso­ta. We’re hop­ing — it is also a new move­ment. It hasn’t been around for a long time, but the cause has been and the solu­tion has always been the same. I think what we are see­ing is a dif­fer­ent way of embrac­ing that we have what we need in our com­mu­ni­ty and we just have to ask for it. These actions and these events and May Day and all of these thing is to real­ly get to our com­mu­ni­ties and say, We are here. Join us. Join this move­ment that is fight­ing for the respect and dig­ni­ty and per­ma­nent pro­tec­tion across the coun­try, across the board.” I think every state is try­ing to get to their com­mu­ni­ty as best as they can. We are also ask­ing our allies and those that have been on the fence that are with us to join us. There is no longer time, espe­cial­ly since the begin­ning of this year has illus­trat­ed that now more than ever, we need to unite. This is one resis­tance out of all of them. And this week­end lead­ing up to it is the People’s Cli­mate March. There are all these injus­tices that we are see­ing. That is one of the things that with Cosecha we rec­og­nize, as well, as one of our prin­ci­ples. We are one part of a big­ger puzzle.

Sarah: You men­tioned that Cosecha has not been around that long. Can you talk a lit­tle bit about its begin­nings and where it came out of?

Glo­ri­bell: It came out of the orga­niz­ers, DREAM­ers, and impact­ed folks. Just a range of peo­ple, myself includ­ed here in Mass­a­chu­setts. Par­tic­u­lar­ly a core group of Cosecha vol­un­teers that were not get­ting paid, they shared their sto­ry and they shared the tri­als of hav­ing to fight for the DREAM Act, see­ing the mas­sive march­es in 2006 where our peo­ple do exist and they do care and not ask­ing for more, but just ask­ing to defeat one of the worst anti-immi­grant leg­is­la­tions cre­at­ed, instead of say­ing right after that, No, we don’t want this, but we want this: per­ma­nent pro­tec­tion for all.”

I think it is a con­tin­u­a­tion of that spir­it and uni­ty that we are here and folks have unit­ed with the plan to use our eco­nom­ic non-con­sump­tion to call for a one-week strike and boy­cott to win per­ma­nent pro­tec­tion for all of us. That is the sto­ry that this range of orga­niz­ers and lead­ers and young folks and peo­ple that have nev­er done any­thing in terms of orga­niz­ing and activism are tak­ing the next step to move our immi­gra­tion sys­tem in this country.

Sarah: What is May Day going to look like in Boston?

Glo­ri­bell: May Day in Boston, there are a lot of activ­i­ties. There is Cosecha in Lawrence, there is some­thing hap­pen­ing in West­ern Mass, there are activ­i­ties that orga­ni­za­tions and unions are doing. But in Boston, what we are doing is a Cosecha fes­ti­val, because we are call­ing for a one-day strike. We are ask­ing busi­ness­es to close. We are ask­ing the peo­ple not to go to work, our kids not to go to school and not to buy any­thing that day. To not par­tic­i­pate and show our con­sump­tion and non-coop­er­a­tion and demon­strate that you can’t con­tin­ue to not address us, and demand­ing the respect and dig­ni­ty and per­ma­nent pro­tec­tion for all 11 mil­lion undoc­u­ment­ed in this country.

That is the first day for us and the con­tin­u­a­tion of what our com­mu­ni­ty did on Feb­ru­ary 16th to be able to advance for­ward. So, we are doing a Cosecha fes­ti­val from 9:00 – 3:00 in East Boston, which is home to a lot of immi­grants in the Boston area, pre­dom­i­nant­ly from Cen­tral and South Amer­i­ca. It is also a com­mu­ni­ty that has been hit hard in so many ways. We are invit­ing all of our Boston neigh­bors from oth­er neigh­bor­hoods and those from across the state to come to the fes­ti­val from 9:00 – 3:00. It is a time to cel­e­brate our art and cul­ture and to learn more about the Cosecha move­ment. Then, we will be join­ing the main march­es in the after­noon that there are going to be. That is what we are doing. We are hop­ing that it is a fam­i­ly friend­ly fes­tive day show­ing our uni­ty and community.

Sarah: How can peo­ple find out more infor­ma­tion and get involved with Cosecha and keep up with your work in Boston?

Glo­ri­bell: We are on Face­book. We have Cosecha Boston. There is Movimien­to Cosecha [on Face­book and Twit­ter] where you can get plugged into the nation­al scene, wher­ev­er you are at. We also are ask­ing peo­ple to text 41411 Strike. You can find us on the web at lahuel​ga​.com. Also, if any­thing, mak­ing that pledge to not go to par­tic­i­pate in the eco­nom­ic sys­tem on May 1st and to join us and La Huel­ga for a one-week strike.

Inter­views for Resis­tance is a project of Sarah Jaffe, with assis­tance from Lau­ra Feuille­bois and sup­port from the Nation Insti­tute. It is also avail­able as a pod­cast on iTunes. Not to be reprint­ed with­out permission. 

Sarah Jaffe is a for­mer staff writer at In These Times and author of Nec­es­sary Trou­ble: Amer­i­cans in Revolt , which Robin D.G. Kel­ley called The most com­pelling social and polit­i­cal por­trait of our age.” You can fol­low her on Twit­ter @sarahljaffe.
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