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KC International Workers’ Day rally gathers labor, immigration, civil rights activists

Mayor proclaims Kansas City's support for International Workers' Day

Barney Allis Plaza was the site of an International Workers' Day rally on Monday. After the rally, people marched to City Hall, where Kansas City Mayor Sly James proclaimed the city's support for International Workers' Day, also known as May Day.
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Barney Allis Plaza was the site of an International Workers' Day rally on Monday. After the rally, people marched to City Hall, where Kansas City Mayor Sly James proclaimed the city's support for International Workers' Day, also known as May Day.

A rally in downtown Kansas City on Monday in observance of International Workers’ Day — traditionally a holiday of labor advocates — gathered a broader array of activists from the fields of immigration, civil rights and reproductive rights.

All of those issues are workers’ issues, organizers said. And the recent election of President Donald Trump has motivated them to band together more than before.

The event, billed as a United We Stand, Divided We Fall day of action, gathered a few hundred participants at Barney Allis Plaza, where a lineup of speakers energized the crowd before marching to City Hall to hear a proclamation of support from Mayor Sly James. Organizers included Stand Up KC, a leader in the Fight for $15 minimum wage campaign; Indivisible KC, a progressive political group prominent at anti-Trump protests; the NAACP; Reproaction; and the Kansas and Missouri Dream Alliance.

Organizer Hillary Shields, from Indivisible KC, said the time was right this year to gather a broader coalition under the banner of the May 1 holiday. In the crowd, placards reading “Fight for $15” stood among others reading “Black, White and Brown.”

“People are so energized right now,” Shields said. “We have to find common ground between the different groups if we really want to make a change.”

Fast food and home health care workers at the rally told of struggling to make ends meet on low wages, and enduring racism on top of that.

April Shabbaz, a mother and a home health care worker for 30 years, said she works a second job delivering food — a total of 70 hours a week, with no days off — and still must rely on a food pantry to live.

“I’m an African-American woman who has seen racism get bolder since the election, and I worry about my children getting home safely.”

At City Hall, James praised the group for its activism and its diverse coalition.

“If you want to get somewhere fast, you go alone,” James said. “But when you want to go far, you’ve got to go together.”

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