LOS ANGELES (CN) – May Day protests brought thousands of people to the streets of Los Angeles on Monday as groups voiced their opposition – and support – for President Donald Trump. But far fewer people showed up for the event than organizers had predicted.
Groups marching for immigrant and LGBTQ rights, women’s and religious groups and labor unions were part of several demonstrations across the nation. Organizers said they expected 100,000 people to participate in an LA rally and march, but on Monday afternoon police put the number closer to 15,000.
A rally started mid-morning at MacArthur Park, and protesters then marched downtown to Los Angeles City Hall.
Mayor Eric Garcetti told protesters in Grand Park that he would protect the hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the city.
“As long as I am mayor, the LAPD will never be a deportation force,” Garcetti said. “They will be your police officers.”
Organizers had said there was a sharp uptick in interest in this year’s march. A hundred groups were expected to take part in a rally organized by The May Day Coalition of Los Angeles. In the past, 30 or 40 groups participated in the May Day marches and protests, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Despite the lower than expected turnout, passions still ran high. A vastly outnumbered group of Trump supporters assembled outside LAPD headquarters, with a line of police separating them from an anti-Trump group.
Ventura resident Patricia Morales, 50, said she had joined the Trump supporters because she felt marchers were uninformed about the president. She suggested liberals had paid protestors to attend previous demonstrations to “create anarchy.”
She said she hoped the marchers would “open up their eyes and see that we’re not the bad people.”
“We are for this country. We’re about what the Founding Fathers were all about – life, liberty, pursuit of happiness,” she said.
Vincent James of the conservative group The Red Elephants stood among the Trump supporters and live-streamed the protest on his cellphone. He said that he had felt marginalized as a Trump supporter in California but wanted to stand up for the president, even though he does not always agree with him on all the issues.
“The silent majority is not going to be silent anymore,” he said. “We’re going to stand up for our free speech. It’s a sad day in America where people have to wear helmets and masks and eye goggles to protect themselves from radical leftist violence.”
On the other side of the police line, a masked anti-fascist protester said he feared reprisals from fascist groups if he showed his face. He said the Trump supporters were willing to “engage violently.”
“Los Angeles won’t stand for fascism, period. We will meet you in the street every single time,” he said, declining to give his name.
May Day has long been celebrated as International Workers’ Day, and more recently has brought immigrant rights into focus.
Trump’s presidency, meanwhile, has spurred a series of nationwide protests, including the Women’s March shortly after his inauguration.
In recent weeks, protesters have urged Trump to release his tax returns. Hundreds marched to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida on April 15, and thousands marched in Washington and other cities. Thousands took to the streets for a March for Science on April 22 in response to Trump’s policies on climate change.
Jerry Rubin, 73, who runs a support group for progressive activists, said in Grand Park that Trump is unfit for office and that it would take a global movement to defeat his agenda.
“If the people lead, the leaders will follow. It’s got to be up to us. We need to think globally and act locally. And I’m here today supporting this resist movement,” Rubin said.
Karla Estrada, 26, did not comment directly on the lower than expected turnout but said there was some hesitation to participate because of Trump’s policies on immigration. She said that while people were living in fear, there is a stronger desire to display solidarity.
“It doesn’t mean that we’re not afraid anymore. It just means that we’re brave enough to confront this, despite of danger,” Estrada said.