by Melinda Tuhus, CT Climate Crisis Mobilization
This year’s May Day on the Green in New Haven marked International Workers Day with a new generation of activists. That was the view of Paula and Frank Panzarella, who initiated and organized May Days in New Haven for 25 years.
“It was nice to see others pick up the banner,” said Frank, complimenting the work done by Unidad Latina en Acción. “I was glad to see the Latino community come out, and it was great to see new young political activists with a variety of leftist parties. I think John Lugo and Megan Fountain did a really good job of putting it together. It’s hard to do on such a short time frame.”
Frank’s band, the Eclektics, played a long set geared more to the older crowd, joined for some songs by vocalist Renee Luna. A rock band of young musicians expressed their own political views in song. Several Latino bands played on the Green and during the march.
There was a table with literature highlighting the history of May Day, when workers in the U.S. – mostly immigrants – fought to establish the 8-hour workday in 1886. Violence erupted at the Chicago protest and police arrested the organizers; several were hanged. Those workers’ struggles for decent wages, working conditions, and dignity sparked the workers’ movement celebrated around the world on May Day.
“There was a reason why May 1 was picked to be the day to push for immigrant rights starting in 2006,” said Paula.
Speakers mentioned current fights for workers’ rights; the need for socialism; the connection between immigration and the climate crisis and why groups espousing immigrant rights and action on climate must work together to achieve their goals; and the fight for universal health care, among other issues. A member of ULA demanded “hero pay” for essential workers who risked their lives during the pandemic. Rep. Robyn Porter, co-chair of the state legislature’s Labor Committee, said the General Assembly has expanded health care for undocumented children to 12 and under from 8 and under, but she is fighting to extend it to age 18. She added that those under 12 who sign up will be covered until age 18.
The Haven free clinic offered free COVID test kits and masks, and Griffin Hospital had a tent nearby offering COVID vaccines.
Young children ran around the Green sporting creative face paint. “It was perfect weather to be out and about, joining in a community event, meeting old friends and new people, a relaxed atmosphere for sharing ideas and philosophy, and enjoying fun performances,” Paula said.
“We need to keep the ‘social’ in socialism to work together to figure things out,” Frank added. “I think it’s getting stronger. I’m glad they did the march because the issues for immigrants are still out there.”
After the four-hour celebration on the Green, complete with an endless supply of pizza (“the workers’ food,” John quipped), young and older set off on a march around downtown, stopping at points of protest or celebration – like recent moves to unionize at the College Street Music Hall and at a hotel on Chapel Street. The march ended on the campus of Yale University, where marchers demanded that Yale – with an endowment that ballooned to $42.3 billion during the pandemic – contribute more to its impoverished host city, especially when low-income residents are being pushed out due to rapidly rising rents.