CHARLOTTE, NC (Mark Price/The Charlotte Observer) - The grassroots fight to shield Mecklenburg County's estimated 54,000 undocumented immigrants from deportation takes a new direction Monday morning, with one group of advocates planning a rally outside Bank of America at Trade and Tryon streets.
Organizers of the event say their intent is to raise awareness of the role Charlotte corporations play in support of "President Donald Trump's anti-immigrant agenda." Targets in Charlotte include Wells Fargo, Bank of America and other companies involved in the financial industry, said Héctor Vaca, of the immigrant advocacy group Action NC.
The 10:30 a.m. event is being staged just 90 minutes before an even larger rally set at Marshall Park. Both events are part of a nationwide series of May 1 rallies in support of a causes ranging from worker's rights to protecting undocumented immigrants from federal agents.
Among the North Carolina rallies are events Monday in Raleigh and Durham, organized by a newly formed coalition calling itself The Majority.
Vaca says the gathering at Trade and Tryon will be a first of its kind in Charlotte for the ongoing fight against federal immigration policies. He says challenging corporations is part of a national grassroots campaign coordinated through the Center for Popular Democracy based out of Washington DC.
"We have spent a lot of time trying to get the attention of elected officials and now we're working to bring attention to contribution corporations make in promoting the Trump agenda," said Vaca.
"Our message to the banks: You benefit from the immigrant community. We are your customers and you make money off of us. Now, you are going to be held responsible for funding the legislators who promote hatred. We want the banks to disassociate with anything to do with the Trump agenda."
He says this includes offering financial or material support for the border wall the Trump administration wants to build along the Mexican border. "If these corporate entities do not support our community and change their practices, we should move our money," he said.
Vaca says the rally will include the participation of immigrant families, Greenpeace and the Charlotte NAACP.
Action NC is also playing a role in the rally planned at Marshall Park. Organizers include the Southeast Asian Coalition, Comunidad Colectiva and Alerta Migratoria, all of which are pushing city and county leaders to defy federal laws that call for the arrest and deportation of people who are in the country illegally.
Backers of the Marshall Park event are calling on businesses to close, people to skip work and students to avoid going to class on Monday. In cases where businesses stay open, Comunidad Colectiva is calling for a boycott.
"This is a day of resistance, a day to uplift the voice of all those who are marginalized and are not being heard by our city, state, and national leaders," said a statement from Comunidad Colectiva. "Immigrants, Muslims, queer and trans people, black and brown, are under attack and are not being protected."
It remains unclear if participation will rival the Feb. 16 Day Without An Immigrant rally that drew up to 8,000 people to Marshall Park. It was estimated 250 immigrant-run businesses closed that day in Charlotte.
On Friday, the Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools warned students in the district not to skip classes for the Monday event, a move it also made prior to A Day Without An Immigrant. CMS reported it had about 16,000 more absences that day than the day before, suggesting many students skipped classes to participate in A Day Without An Immigrant.
Comunidad Colectiva recently delivered a list of demands to city and county leaders, most of which involved greater protections for undocumented immigrants in the community.
Last week, a key organizer of the Monday rally, immigrant activist Oliver Merino, received a threatening letter, warning him and other immigrants to go into hiding. The letter was signed by a group calling itself the Midnight Militia. Merino posted the letter on Facebook, but a did not alert police to the threat, said an email form Comunidad Colectiva.