The annual Cesar Chavez march planned for this weekend in Merced takes on extra meaning under the Trump administration, the organizers said Thursday.
This year’s march is themed “The Struggle is One,” according to Jesse Ornelas, an organizer and a member of the Brown Berets. The march has a focus on undocumented immigrants, mass deportations and police brutality, he said.
“It’s to let the community know this isn’t the first time that the undocumented people have been targeted and we’re going to get through this,” he said, “and, that there’s community members here that support them.”
400,000Average number of farmworkers in California
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Beyond talk of deporting 11 million people without legal status, President Donald Trump has promised to build a wall on the Mexican border and to yank federal funding from sanctuary cities that harbor the undocumented.
The rights of farmworkers are commonly part of the celebration of Chavez, a civil rights leader known for his work to improve the lives of farmworkers by using nonviolent protest methods, including a 25-day fast in 1968 and a 36-day fast 20 years later. Efforts by Chavez and others led landowners to sign union contracts that provided farmworkers with bathrooms, better wages and water breaks.
Chavez, who was born in Arizona on March 31, 1927, co-founded with Dolores Huerta the union that came to be known as the United Farm Workers. He died in 1993. His birthdate is an official state holiday in California.
March organizers in Merced expect between 150 and 250 people to participate. Three local residents are to be honored for their work in the community, Ornelas said.
It’s kind of to let the community know this isn’t the first time that the undocumented people have been targeted and we’re going to get through this.
Organizer Jesse Ornelas
“We’re just trying to make sure that the younger generation learns and knows about the legacy of Cesar Chavez and the sacrifices he made for the farmworker community,” he said. “Merced has a very large farmworker community.”
There are more than 400,000 farmworkers in California during the harvest season, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. About half of all hired farmworkers are estimated to lack legal authorization to work in the United States, according to a survey by the U.S. Department of Labor.
The march, which is followed by a celebration, begins at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Merced County Fairgrounds, 900 Martin Luther King Jr. Way.
The march will proceed to the Building Healthy Communities Community Circle, a celebration involving food and music, at the Merced Senior Community Center, 755 15th St.