Hundreds of protestors marched through downtown Bakersfield Monday shouting slogans, waving signs and otherwise calling for a more unified, inclusive and tolerant community.
They also called for marchers and the public to resist the policies of President Donald Trump, which they called divisive and destructive.
“We are part of the solution, not part of the problem in this divided country,” said Cal State Bakersfield sociology Professor Gonzalo Santos. “We are fed up when they detain us and harass us.”
The march was organized on the day traditionally set aside to celebrate the labor movement and was part of similar protests organized across the United States and the world.
In Bakersfield, walkers gave their own twist to the campaign.
They chanted for health care, sanctuary for immigrants, gender equality, environmental justice, LGBTQ rights, education, science and worker rights.
They heckled Sheriff Donny Youngblood for proposing Kern County be named a “non-sanctuary” county.
Walkers carried signs saying, “People not poverty,” “Health care for all,” and “Physics doesn’t care what you believe.”
They chanted “Si se puede” and “ICE will melt” and “Education not deportation.”
Bakersfield College student Isaias Ramos, 19, said Trump is giving people license to try to reverse all the progress the United States has made in the last several decades.
“There is a cost for us to go back into the past,” he said.
It creates a less kind, more discriminatory environment, Ramos believes.
May Day protests have been going on for years, but the mood changed this year with Trump in the White House, said Miguel Westby, who marched Monday in Bakersfield and has attended several immigrants-rights marches in recent months. Both his parents are Mexican nationals.
“My people are being threatened, they’re being harassed. I just want to support my people and make sure they know that they’ve got support from us who are born here, and we have our families’ backs,” Westby said. “We’re here to fight this cause.”
Marchers gathered at Mill Creek Park and marched south on Q Street, west on 17th Street, South on Chester Street and back east along Truxtun to Q Street before returning to the park.
Several hundred walkers joined the trek, at one point stretching all the way from M Street to Q Street.
They included people from unions like the United Farm Workers Foundation, Service Employees International Union and California Faculty Association.
There were students who skipped school to attend, leaders from the LGBT community, community organizers for environmental groups and the Dolores Huerta Foundation.
Drivers honked horns in support and waved.
Other people in downtown asked them why they were walking or wondered at their signs.
“’Resist the Cheeto?’ I don’t know what that means,” one woman said.
Vietnam vet Dennis Carpenter came down to the march wearing a shirt that stated, “We owe immigrants nothing. We owe veterans everything.”
He said he wanted protestors to hear how he felt.
“I’m not prejudiced,” he said. “I’m just getting tired of shelling out for people who drive better cars than me and don’t work.”
But he said marchers treated him better than the people who welcomed him back from Vietnam.
“At least it's organized and polite,” he said.
After the march, the groups gathered at Mill Creek Park again to eat hot dogs, chili verde and chips while speakers, artists and musicians called on them to sustain their activism.
Artist Jorge Guillen rallied the crowd with a speech that flowed back and forth from Spanish to English.
"You call me a wetback for crossing an imaginary line but you're mistaken," he said. "I am the American dream."
Then he hopped down off the stage and started painting.
Meanwhile, teachers, administrators and staff stood shoulder-to-shoulder outside of four Arvin schools, escorting kids into classrooms, instead of out of them. It ran counter to other advocates encouraging students to walk out of classrooms on May Day.
Wearing red to support public education, teachers and administrators passed out pencils to students while waving signs that read, “no bullying,” “hate-free zone” and “DREAMers are welcome here.” Arvin Union School District was among the first to pass a “sanctuary district” policy in support of immigrant youth.
“We were reminding them that we were here to protect and support their students … and it’s for all students, not just for our immigrant students,” Arvin Teachers Association President Michael Flores-Castaneda said.
The district sent letters home to parents Friday to let them know about Monday’s demonstration.