On a hill of gravelly mud in Kendrick Park — that little strip of grass in downtown Amherst flanked by Triangle and Pleasant streets — a family of protesters are passing around plastic instruments and bird masks in preparation for the March for Science.
“Everyone got one?” the mother asks. “Just like we practiced.”
And the big plastic band starts playing a buzzy, flatulent “When the Saints Go Marching In.”
A man with a tambourine and a girl with a whistle join in and boost the group’s New Orleans’ vibe. Everyone stops once some fuzzy sounding words over a megaphone break through the din of 600 or so people ready to rally. A few phrases reverberate to the back where the families with children and people with dogs are hanging out: “Climate action,” “environmental justice,” “science is not liberal.”
Across the nation on Saturday — Earth Day — people came out to march in support of science — a field, which many feel is under attack by the Trump administration. The president’s plan to gut the Environmental Protection Agency and roll back pollution and emissions restrictions, in addition to cuts for research — not to mention Trump’s own insistence that whatever thought belches from his lips is truth — have people worried that science needs some support right now.
Lately, it has felt like every weekend there has been a major protest to attend: the March for Women, the March for Planned Parenthood, the fight for a $15 minimum wage, anti-pipeline, pro-immigration, anti-bombing, and a crusade to get Trump to release his tax returns.
On Saturday, the March for Science was held in Washington, D.C., and attracted thousands of demonstrators. There were another 600 protests held across the world — including the one in Amherst organized by local scientists.
What has made the march for science different from past marches is the presence of children. All protests typically have some toddlers causing hell, but in Amherst, the science march contained a strong kid-presence. We estimate there were somewhere between 60 and 100 people there under the age of 16. Many made their own signs about how much science means to them and the disasters that can happen when discovery is stunted.
Protests are about fighting for a better future, and it was heartening to see the future so well represented among the rabble rousing ranks.
There are many more opportunities coming to raise your voice against the man: and first up is May Day.
On the first day of May every year protestors across the globe unite and striking workers stand side by side in solidarity as they march through the streets for International Workers Day aka May Day. With roots going back to 19th century struggles for safe working conditions, fair wages, and the creation of the 40-hour work week, May Day isn’t just another holiday. It’s a reminder that protest can result in direct change.
In Massachusetts, many events are planned for May Day in large cities like Boston and Worcester, as well as several marches in Western Massachusetts from Northampton to Springfield.
A long list of activist organizations are sponsoring coordinated May Day events in the Pioneer Valley, including Arise for Social Justice, the Pioneer Valley Workers Center, and Neighbor to Neighbor, and Massachusetts Jobs with Justice.
“Our nearly 200 coalition member organizations representing tens of thousands of individuals, including teachers, nurses, building trades, students, all stand behind this May Day call and are in solidarity with immigrant workers both nationally and here in Western Mass,” according to Eric Bauer, an organizer with Massachusetts Jobs with Justice.
Part of the call to action this May Day is for a general workers strike for immigrant and U.S. born workers, whether it’s staying home from their jobs, businesses closing down for the day or consumers making a statement with their wallets by refusing to shop, according to a press release for the event. The general strike is a planned nationwide strike by millions of people to demand full protection of immigrants and low-wage workers in the United States.
“The use of boycotts and strikes are a very particular tactic that’s used to demonstrate the collective power that workers hold and in a moment when President Trump is attacking immigrants and unions and the working class by taking away federal funding for basic needs it’s important that we rise up collectively,” Rose Bookbinder, lead organizer of the Pioneer Valley Workers Center, said.
Thirteen local businesses, including Artisan Beverage Company in Greenfield, Mi Tierra in Hadley, Wild Rose Farm in Hadley, Out Now! in Springfield, and the Rosenberg Fund for Children in Easthampton plan to put up “closed” signs for the day in solidarity with the general strike.
In Western Massachusetts, May Day will kick off with a noon potluck lunch at 20 Hampton Ave., suite 200, in Northampton followed by a march through the streets of Northampton at 1:30 p.m. to protest city businesses where workers allege they have experienced sexual harassment, discrimination, and wage theft, she said.
In the City of Springfield, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) offices are slated for expansion at the Federal Courthouse, 1515 Main St., she said. Protesters will gather at 5:30 p.m. outside the courthouse to condemn the expansion locally.
“Trump is asking for $3 billion to be allocated to increase immigration and customs enforcement and we find that to be outrageous and disgusting,” Bookbinder said.
Luis, who withheld his last name because of his undocumented status, is a Springfield immigrant-worker leader with the Pioneer Valley Workers Center. He said in a statement that elected leaders should “recognize the reality that immigrants are not criminals and instead contribute to the economy of this country.”
Protesters will then march to Springfield City Hall for 6 p.m. to protest Mayor Domenic Sarno’s refusal to name Springfield as a sanctuary city.
“We’re sort of viewing Domenic Sarno as our mini Trump here in Western Mass,” Bookbinder said. “He stated that Springfield isn’t and never will be a sanctuary city and we as a community are coming forward to say otherwise. We believe that Springfield, as being one of the cities that holds the most number of immigrants, that it’s critical that there’s a commitment from the mayor and the police that they won’t collaborate with ICE and that they won’t deputize to be agents of immigration.”
At 6:30 p.m. May Day activists will also speak out during the Springfield City Council meeting to call for support for the Massachusetts Safe Communities Act, a bill that would prohibit deputizing local law enforcement officers to act as immigration officials, ban a Muslim registry in the state, ensure basic due process rights for people detained by ICE, and ensure that state and local law enforcement officials would not participate in immigration enforcement activities, Bookbinder said.
“Our future generation should feel confident that while they are in school they will return home to their families,” City Councilor Adam Gomez said in a statement for the May Day events. “I want to make sure that relationships that are already built aren’t tragically broken.”
And lest we forget that the Resistance is fun, a dance party will cap off May Day at Haymarket Cafe, 185 Main St., in Northampton at 8 p.m.
Contact the Valley Advocate at email@example.com.