SAN JOSE (CBS SF/BCN) — As part of a May Day observance, demonstrators drove a caravan of vehicles throughout San Jose to advocate for international workers rights and call on local legislators to enact rent cancellations during the coronavirus economic emergency.

Beginning from the east side of the city at Eastridge Mall, the caravan traveled through Alum Rock, downtown San Jose and into The Alameda.

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“Today is the first of the month and a lot of peoples’ rents are due, and they’re not going to be able to pay that rent,” Rich G., an
organizer who asked to withhold his last name, said at Eastridge Mall before the caravan took off Friday afternoon. “We want to be able to lift up the international workers, the workers here, and show people that tenants rights are workers’ rights.”

Caravan participants also sought rent forgiveness and resources for undocumented immigrants in the city, many of whom have lost income and employment and will not be able to pay their rents as the country appears poised to descend into the next recession.

“The state tells us ‘You can’t go to work, there’s no income,’ which means there’s no rent,” he said. “I don’t know if there’s any other way around it.”

The demonstrators adorned their cars with signs and window paint, bearing pro-rent-cancellation messages, and honked their way through midday quarantine traffic, which is much less congested compared to the norm before the March shelter-in-place orders kept so many people at home.

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The group Serve the People San Jose was a main organizer of the caravan demonstration, joined by Silicon Valley De-Bug, Latinos for A United America (LUNA) and others.

“We’re going to carry on that debt for the rest of the year and years to come because even now rents are expensive, they’re not affordable,” Cecilio Garcia, a member of LUNA and San Jose resident, said via a translator. “We are barely able to make it now as it is.”

Kevin Morales, a 23-year-old San Jose resident, drove with the caravan holding a “Landlords ain’t essential” sign and a message on his
driver’s side doors reading, “NO PAY NO RENT.” He said he attended to protest rent collections on behalf of undocumented immigrants and workers he knows will not be able to send a check to their landlords this month.

“A lot of them are super worried about the rent,” Morales said. “There’s a moratorium right now, but if you ask them what happens after that, they don’t even want to think about it.”

Throughout San Jose, the caravan received honks and cheers from supporters and passersby. Lourdes Best drove all the way down from her home
in East Palo Alto to be part of the demonstration.

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“We’re on the ground for this pandemic, so we need to make noise,” Best, 39, said. “In this time of crisis, people need help and support. The systems have to come up with something.”