Last Friday at work, all kinds of memos went out about the upcoming May 1 Immigration Rally to be held at the state capitol. Organizers said there could be up to 100,000 people attending, whereas previously the biggest demonstration ever held at the Capitol was only 10,000. The usual steps were taken when there is a big event downtown: the state patrol was called in, helicopters would be on hand, barricades were placed along some streets, and other streets would be closed. We had a special staff meeting Friday afternoon to let us know what was going on and that we would be open for business (and that anyone who decided not to come in on Monday would have to sign leave). I made a mental note to bring something for lunch so I wouldn’t have to go out in the throngs. Some people decided not to come in rather possibly get stuck downtown in the masses. One of my bosses said it would be like the Olympics again where the streets were turned into rivers flowing with people. I was looking forward to seeing it.
The rally this morning was supposed to start at noon, so it wasn’t that surprising that MARTA wasn’t any more crowded than usual this morning. By the time I got to the Georgia State station, I rememebered that I hadn’t brought my lunch. A public announcement said that people attending the immigration rally should exit at the Five Points Station, a particularly unhelpful message because A. Georgia State is closer to the Capitol than Five Points, and B. it was in English. At the door to the state office buildings a guard was checking ID’s just like always. But on the walk over to my building, I saw two helicopters parked on the helipad and as I walked across the pedestrian bridge, a third helicopter was landing on the parking deck. Three helicopters! This was a first. They had even blocked off part of the pedestrian bridge and I had to enter work through the front door. I walked past not one, but three state patrol mobile command posts (RV’s that probably haven’t been used since the last Freaknik).
When I got to my desk I looked out my window towards the stadium to see if anyone was walking towards the capitol. There was a truckload of barricades ready to be deployed along with regularly spaced garbage cans that had been placed last week, but no people. It was still early yet.
But as the day wore on, the crowd never materialized. Helicopters kept circling overhead, but I never saw anyone on the ground. At 11 there was still nothing. At noon we decided to just go to one of our regular places down the street for lunch. There were a couple of policemen on horses right outside our building. As we walked past the Capitol there were a couple of hundred people at the rally. The streets were closed and we had to walk through a gap in the barricade being manned by some police. About the only thing unusual was that our lunch place was closed, though the Chinese manager was sitting by herself at one of the tables. A couple of doors down, another regular lunch place was open as usual.
On the way back from lunch it looked like the rally had picked up a few more people, but there were still less than 1,000 people certainly. Oh well. Not only was it not the biggest demonstration ever, it wasn’t even the biggest one I saw this year.