A crowd of about a hundred people combined pro-immigrant and pro-worker messages at a May Day rally outside the Dover, New Hampshire City Hall today. Despite an on-again off-again drizzle, spirits stayed strong during speeches by immigrant and religious leaders, songs led by Rev. Mary Westfall, and music performed by the Leftist Marching Band.
The rally was organized by the NH Alliance for Immigrants and Refugees, and emceed by its organizer, Eva Castillo. Support also came from the American Friends Service Committee and Occupy Dover.
Speakers included Dr. Sara Alier, President of the South Sudanese Association; Suraj Budathoki, a member of the Bhutanese Community of NH; the Rev. Sandra Pontoh of the Maranatha Indonesian UCC Church in Madbury; Attorney Larry Vogelman; Maggie Fogarty of the AFSC; State Rep. David Watters of Dover; and the Rev. Kendra Ford of the Exeter UU Church.
The connections between workers and immigrants were evident, for example in remarks of several speakers concerning a February incident in which reports of wage theft at a nearby construction site prompted community protests which helped the workers collect pay they were owed. Lindsey Wettleland of Occupy Dover also noted that Dover was the site of the first industrial strike by women in the USA. Judy Elliott, an ESOL teach and NH COSH safety trainer spoke about the common on-the-job injuries experienced by immigrant workers and the rights that all workers have to a safe workplace.
Danny Provencal Fogarty, a Dover 8th grader, was probably the most effective speaker with his reading of the Emma Lazarus poem from the Statue of Liberty and impromptu remarks – in Spanish and English – about his own experience living in a Bolivian village and the importance of having a welcoming attitude to immigrants. Danny has a future as a public speaker!
A small counter-protest by the Granite State Patriots, a tea party group led by a one-time head of the State Republican Party, drew only 5 people. They complied with requests to be a non-disruptive presence and left halfway through the rally.
The rally featured spirited renditions of “This Land is Your Land,” “We Shall Not Be Moved,” and “We Shall Overcome.” “Solidarity Forever” was sung with choruses in Spanish and Indonesian as well as English.
Here’s my new verse for “This Land is Your Land”
“We are dissenters from the one per centers,
For human rights, we are defenders,
For social justice, we are extenders,
May 1 rallies for immigrants’ rights in recent years had been held in Manchester and Nashua. The decision to hold this year’s rally in Dover followed a February incident in which Dover police called federal immigration authorities when a small group of immigrants showed up at the police station to report an incident of wage theft and request assistance.
Earlier in the day immigrants rights activists attended a State House hearing on a resolution of support for Arizona’s repressive immigration law, known as SB 1070. Not a single supporter, not even the resolution’s sponsor, showed up to speak for the non-binding expression of intolerance. But opponents included Eva Castillo, Judy Elliott from NH AIR, Clair Ebel of the NH Civil Liberties Union, Cathy Chesley from Catholic Charities, Attorney Enrique Mesa, Louise Hannan of NH COSH, and me. Following the hearing, the Senate Internal Affairs Committee voted 2-1 to recommend killing the resolution, which had already passed the NH House.
Here’s more photos: