Chanting “Yes, We Can” in Spanish and English, hundreds of people marched to the White House in observance of May Day.
The march and rally, combined with a general strike, are intended to champion workers’ rights like other May Day demonstrations around the world. But this protest had the added impetus of protesting anti-immigrant policies of President Donald Trump by highlighting the role immigrants play in the U.S. economy.
About 150 businesses in the D.C. area closed, most of them restaurants and legal offices. Other businesses offered a paid day for employees who wanted to demonstrate.
El Rancho Migueleno in Arlington was one business that remained open, but paid employees who wanted to protest.
Owner Oscar Amaya also hired a van to take 12 of his workers to Dupont Circle, the staging area for the march.
Amaya, who came from El Salvador in 1990, told VOA in Spanish that he left the choice up to his employees, but that in his opinion, the “most important thing was to get out and march.”
He said his biggest concern is the fear that the community is experiencing. “People don’t want to go out to work, let alone have fun,” he said.
He said his business has been affected by Trump’s policies because many of his Latino customers are afraid to come to the restaurant to dinner.
Trump has issued three executive orders pertaining to immigration, including one that loosens the criteria by which undocumented immigrants can be deported, and calls for hiring more immigration agents.
VOA’s Victoria Macchi contributed to this report.