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Smaller crowd shows for Santa Rosa May Day march (w/video)

  • Sumesh Rijal blows a horn as he participates in the May Day March in Santa Rosa on May 1, 2014. (BETH SCHLANKER/Press Democrat)

A little more than 100 people took part in the annual May Day parade in Santa Rosa on Thursday, a much smaller turnout than in previous years when hot-button issues brought out more marchers.

“We've been doing this since 2006 when 10,000 people showed up,” said Attila Nagy of the May 1st Coalition, which organizes the May Day march. “I think what Gov. (Jerry) Brown did for immigrants last year may have made people a little more relaxed about the issues.”

Nagy was referring to a number of measures signed into law by Brown last year, including the Trust Act, which prohibits local law enforcement agencies from holding people for deportation when they are arrested for a minor crime and are otherwise eligible to be released.

May Day

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The crowd, which gathered in searing heat in a strip mall parking lot on Sebastopol Road in west Santa Rosa, was small but passionate. Families, students and activists with labor, peace and immigrant rights groups made up the crowd. There were signs that advocated a $15 dollar minimum wage. Many showed support for Andy Lopez, the 13-year-old Santa Rosa boy who was fatally shot by a Sonoma County sheriff's deputy last October.

Greg Sarris, chairman of the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria, was a featured speaker at the rally. He told the crowd to urge the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors to impel District Attorney Jill Ravitch to speed up her review of the case. The District Attorney's Office is examining the incident to determine if Deputy Erick Gelhaus violated the law when he shot Lopez, who was carrying an airsoft BB gun that resembled an assault rifle.

Sarris also touted his commitment to the workers at the Graton casino, saying he provided “some of the best benefits to any workers in the county, or anywhere.”

The group marched along Sebastopol Road to Old Courthouse Square, led by a small group dressed in traditional Mexican Indian garb.

The event was one of many that took place across the nation to celebrate May Day or International Workers' Day. In past years, issues like immigration reform have swelled the crowd into the thousands.

“I think it's essential that we come out on a day like this,” said Roberto Sanchez, an artist and writer from Santa Rosa, “Any support is important. Our voices should be heard.”

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