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VENTURA COUNTY STAR: Marchers advocate for workers' rights

May 1st, 2011

By Anne Kallas

Nearly 100 people marched through Oxnard's La Colonia neighborhood Sunday in support of International Workers' Day, which is traditionally observed May 1.

The rally at Camino del Sol Park and march down Colonia Road was a project of Todo Poder al Pueblo Collective, which translates as Power to the People Collective, according to organizer Elliott Gabriel.

"We're a group of individuals and various organizations that have a history of immigrants' rights," Gabriel said.

"We're celebrating International Workers' Day with a rally, march and demonstration in solidarity with other workers across the world today," said Sol Porras of Oxnard, another member of the collective. "We represent all workers. We are letting people know.

"There are a lot of issues working people are dealing with on a day-to-day basis. One is having enough income to survive. We can march together and celebrate the work we contribute to society."

Pieter Turley of CSU Channel Islands said he was there with a group — CSU Channel Islands Lobby Corps — to send a message to state Sen. Tony Strickland, R-Moorpark. "We want to send a message to let us vote on tax extensions to fund public education," Turley said.

Early winds made handling the large banners that various marchers had made difficult until one marcher cut semicircular slashes in them to let the wind through.

Dancers from Danza Huitzilin Ihuan Xochitl opened the rally with a ceremonial performance where they blessed the four directions, the earth and the sky. The dancers then led the crowd through the La Colonia neighborhood, taking care to stay on the sidewalks as they handed out literature to passersby.

Before the march, Gabriel reminded the crowd that the first May Day celebration occurred in Chicago where "migrant workers from Europe marched in demand for an eight-hour work day." He called on the people gathered to organize workers on a block-by-block basis in Ventura and Oxnard.

Tanya Cole of Ojai said her group, Ventura County Witness for Peace, helped organize the march and rally as part of its commitment to Fair Trade practices. She noted her group agrees with others who are calling for tax cuts and cuts in government service.

"We think there is military spending that needs to be cut," Cole said. "We'd like to see taxes paid fairly by corporations. We don't have a fair tax system."

Anahi Quiroz, 24, a CSUCI student said she is concerned by cuts in education spending. "Baby boomers are not spending money on the children right now and we won't be able to take care of them in the future," she said.

John and Mary Tolian of Oxnard were at the rally and march in support of workers. "I think it's important to come out on May Day," John said. "I wish they did more in the city of Oxnard."

Gabriel said he hoped the rally would allow people to come forward.

"We want to give a voice to the actual people of Colonia — the workers themselves — for them to speak about their problems the way they see them in an unfiltered fashion," he said. "This is for students, migrants, Native Americans, everyone to possibly create a format for our common defense."

To read this article in the Ventura County Star, click here