Hundreds of people rallied and marched in San Francisco today for International Workers Day calling for not only safe working conditions and fair pay, but also an end to police brutality, state violence, immigrant deportation and displacement of low-income residents in the Mission District.
Activists and workers from Bay Area groups such as Service Employees International Union Local 87, Mujeres Unidas y Activas, the ANSWER Coalition, La Colectiva and Migrants International, came together to celebrate May Day this afternoon at Civic Center Plaza outside City Hall.
Prior to a march from Civic Center Plaza to the Mission District, members of various advocacy groups met with police officers inside Bill Graham Civic Auditorium for a discussion about security during the march.
San Francisco police Capt. Greg McEachern encouraged the activists helping with security to report bad behavior while guiding the crowd of protesters to 16th and Mission streets and then on to 24th and Mission streets for the conclusion of the march.
Olga Miranda, president of SEIU Local 87, said that activists would be working with police today to ensure the event stays peaceful and safe.
“This is a family event,” Miranda said.
She said despite everything else that is happening in the world today, such as protests in Baltimore over the death of Freddie Gray, activists want to work with police to ensure the safety of today’s event.
“Yes, there has been police brutality, but today we are working with police,” Miranda said, explaining that she is most concerned that families who come out today get home safely.
Among those who were out advocating in front of City Hall this afternoon on behalf of workers was Timothy Killikelly, president of American Federation of Teachers 2121, which represents City College of San Francisco teachers.
Killikelly said enrollment at CCSF is down and that teachers are making less now than they were in 2007.
He said that while CCSF teachers took pay cuts, some members of the CCSF administration have received a 20 percent pay raise.
Killikelly, who has worked at CCSF for 18 years teaching political science, said the teachers at the college are the lowest paid in comparison to the other major community colleges in the Bay Area, yet the administration makes more than most of the major community colleges.
“What is going to happen to the quality of education?” he asked. “How are you going to retain qualified faculty?”
Killikelly said CCSF faculty is paid less than the statewide average, despite the city’s ever-rising cost of living, but that CCSF administrators are getting paid more than the statewide average for administrations at community colleges.
“It’s really terrible,” he said, adding that faculty moral is low and teachers are frustrated.
He said that student enrollment is down and that in order to keep students, the college needs to keep its teachers and pay them a fair wage, otherwise teachers won’t want to be there and neither will students.
Killikelly pondered the future of CCSF if things continue the way they are heading.
“None of us became teachers because we thought it was the most lucrative field, we just want to be paid a living wage,” he said.
Activists held signs that read, “Workers Rising for Dignity” and “Fair Pay, Less Greed.”
Other signs that read, “No to Racism, No to Police Brutality” and “Leave ‘Em Alone Baltimore PD” expressed activists’ disapproval of police brutality across the country.
Activist Kathleen Byrne marched with the large crowd to the Mission District holding a sign that read, “R.I.P. Freddie Gray.”
Byrne said she has been attending civil rights protests since the 1990s and said feels things are shifting and that people are becoming “more attune to police violence.”
She said so much of the violence generated by police toward the public is race-motivated and that officers don’t treat black people the way they treat white people.
“It’s still Jim Crow,” she said, referring to the laws that upheld racial segregation in public schools, public transportation and public spaces.
Other activists, carrying signs that read, “End ICE and Police Collaboration” and “Borders=Repression” showed up for May Day to protest the U.S. government’s deportation of immigrants and demand protections.
Hannah Albarazi, Bay City News