From Southern California, public radio for your eyes.

May Day Los Angeles

What a difference a year makes.

At last year's May Day parade and rally through Downtown Los Angeles, the Occupy movement still had some of its head of steam.

Then, the atmosphere was tense as black-shirt anarchists co-mingled with hard-hatted union supporters. This year, you could only spot a handful of balaclavas in the crowd.

A bit after noon, thousands of demonstrators slowly made their way down Broadway waving unwieldy signs and shouting slogans in Spanish and English.

Police say there were 3,500 at the marches, while SEIU organizers say 5,000.

This parade usually congeals into a procession of five or six smaller parades, each fronted by a banner and populated with members of specific unions or interest groups. The vast majority of participants are union members in color-coded shirts.

There's the Service Employees International Union in the lead followed a bit behind by a red-shirt contingent from Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles. A loose confederation of LGBT support groups are always a rowdy crew.

Jesus Garcia rolled his wheelchair in front of the parade screaming and waving his arms just like last year (Slide 8). Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine and his wife pushed strollers with their "Union Babies" (Slide 4). 

May Day rallies began in the United States in 2000 during a labor dispute with a restaurant in Los Angeles that drew several hundred demonstrators, said Angelica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles.

Crowds grew each year until the House of Representatives passed a tough bill against illegal immigration, sparking a wave of enormous, angry protests from coast to coast in 2006.

A comprehensive immigration reform measure is about to try to make its way through committees in both the U.S. House and Senate. This march was about pushing that bill on the floor of Congress, participants said. And screamed.

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