SALEM – Colorful crowds gathered in Salem Thursday in support of granting driver’s licenses to undocumented residents and immigrant issues. In Portland, marchers readied to rally through downtown streets.
The rallies and marches were part of annual May Day protests in Oregon and around the country.
In Salem, Aztec dancers started off the day in front of the Oregon Capitol, where around 1,500 people celebrated and protested simultaneously.
Speakers voiced their support for the creation of an Oregon driver card.
Last year, Governor John Kitzhaber signed a new law that would allow undocumented residents to get a driver card, which would give them the clearance to drive legally for four years.
That law was headed off by opponents who’ve gathered more than 70,000 signatures to force a public vote on the issue this November.
Photos: May Day rally in Salem
Union representatives, lawmakers and immigrant rights activists spoke Thursday from behind a podium with a sign that read, "Restore driving privilege to all."
Former Hillsboro Police Chief Ron Louie said the cards are a good idea because immigrants are going to drive one way or the other.
“They’re not going to self-deport,” Louie said. “They’re not going leave because this is their home. Now they’re Oregonians and this is their home. I think we need to recognize that they want to raise their families and driving allows them to be part of a functioning society.”
Demonstrators also planned to march through downtown Portland in support of federal immigration reform. The International Workers’ Day rally began in the South Park Blocks downtown and the march was supposed to start at 4 p.m.
Demonstrators are scheduled to travel southbound along Park Avenue to Columbia Street and turning onto 4th Avenue and going east to Madison Street. From there, the marchers will move north along 2nd Avenue to Burnside Street to Broadway, then to Taylor Street. The final leg of the march will go south along Park Avenue and end at Shemanski Park around 5:30 p.m.
“The gap between the haves and the have-nots continues to widen as corporate control of the economy grows and government corruption increases,” said Ben Marston of Unite Here, a union representing low-wage hotel workers. “Our members struggle to make ends meet and often have to rely on social services such as food stamps even though they work full time.”
Romeo Sosa of the immigrant rights organization Voz said his group wanted to highlight the plight of immigrants and undocumented workers.
“The immigrant population has always played a major role in the May Day event. Despite a growing attack on undocumented workers and their families, the community is standing strong in saying 'no more' to deportations that are separating children and parents,” said Sosa.