May Day: Hundreds march in downtown LA for immigration issues (updated)

"Wikena" (right) is a Peruvian undocumented immigrant who says her husband was deported seven years ago. She was one of several hundred people who gathered at the corner of Olympic and Broadway in downtown L.A. at about noon on Thursday, May 1, 2014.
Adolfo Guzman Lopez/KPCC
A woman's sign says "We ask for a miracle" on posterboard with the images of recently canonized Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXXIII on May 1, 2014. There were about 300 people at the corner of Olympic and Broadway in downtown L.A. at noon on Thursday for an immigrant rights march.

Update 2:30 p.m. Hundreds gathered Thursday in Chinatown for the annual May Day demonstrations, chanting for immigration and human rights reform, the Los Angeles Times reported.

In a loud yet peaceful scene, demonstrators banged on drums, hugged, waved placards and paraded through bumper-to-bumper traffic. One group held the American flag above their heads as they prepared to march.

A woman who gave her name only as "Wikena" told KPCC that she is a Peruvian immigrant who is in this country without documentation. She said her husband was deported seven years ago, and her 18-year-old son says he misses his father.

She was one of about 300 people who gathered at the corner of Olympic and Broadway in downtown L.A. at about noon on Thursday. Previous immigrant rights marches on this spot had attracted thousands more people.

Citrus College student Jonathan Carmona — who's been involved in immigrant rights groups for six years — told KPCC that the turnout  was much lower than previous years. 

"People lose hope, and they get frustrated with the system. They don't come out anymore. They give up sometimes. They really shouldn't," he said.

Carmona said one of his uncles and a cousin were deported in recent years, and their families have been struggling to make ends meet. "We try to help out as much as we can since we're family," he said.

Tamara Franco, 17, attended the rally with her mother, two nieces and little brother. "My parents have been fighting for years, years, and it's really hard, you know, trying to have a stable home with, like, them going to court and then having to fight for their papers," she told KPCC.

—KPCC reporter Adolfo Guzman-Lopez

Previously: Thousands of people will take to the streets of downtown Los Angeles for the annual May Day marches Thursday and urge Congress to take action on legislation overhauling the nation's immigration system while ending deportations that divide families.

The annual marches traditionally draw throngs of participants and block major traffic routes throughout much of the day. Los Angeles Police Department officials urged people to avoid the downtown area if possible and to expect detours if they do drive in the area.

RELATED: May Day rally prompts street closures in downtown LA

This year's march is themed "Keeping Families Together," emphasizing the goal of ending deportations that split parents from their children.

Participants were expected to begin gathering at about 5 a.m. at North Broadway Street and West Cesar Chavez Avenue, waving signs at passing motorists.

At 9 a.m., a group of protesters were set to rally outside a Burger King on Cesar Chavez to support wage increases for fast-food workers.

The march itself begins at 10 a.m., starting at the Chinatown Gateway, winding through the downtown area and ending at the Metropolitan Detention Center at 535 North Alameda Street, where a rally will be held.

Multiple streets will be closed in the area — including Broadway between roughly 11th and Temple streets and Hill and Spring streets between Olympic and First Street, according to the LAPD.

Public transit riders can also expect delays and/or detours on various downtown routes. Information on bus routes is available at www.metro.net.

In 2007, dozens of protesters, police officers and reporters were injured when an L.A. May Day protest turned violent.

See a map of the affected area and maps of traffic control plans below.

May Day 2014 traffic plans