A growing number of Twin Cities businesses will close Thursday in solidarity with a nationwide protest dubbed a “Day Without Immigrants.”
The one-day boycott, organized through social media, urges immigrants — whether citizens or not — to not go to work, open their businesses, spend money or send their children to school in reaction to President Donald Trump’s views and actions on immigration. The idea is to send a message that the “country is paralyzed” without immigrants, who do everything from run corporate boardrooms to clean them.
In the Twin Cities, primarily Hispanic-owned businesses posted Facebook messages saying they will close, while operators of other restaurants and hotels are talking to their staffs to get a feel for how many will participate.
Most say it’s difficult to estimate how many will do so.
“This really is a grass-roots thing that just came out of nowhere,” said Maya Santamaria, owner of La Raza Radio and Telemundo Minnesota.
The idea emerged on social media, with no one group orchestrating it, she said. She said her radio crew began talking about it on the air and taking calls from listeners on Tuesday. “We’re hearing that people are going to participate, but not everyone was [thrilled] about pulling their kids out of school,” she said.
“There’s no purpose for sacrificing their education.”
But business owners and workers are willing to sacrifice income to make their point, Santamaria said. Some, however, worry about possible repercussions if they don’t show up to work, she said.
It’s unlikely that the one-day protest will create a major economic disruption, she said.
“It all came about really quickly, and it’s hard to organize something like this on a grass-roots level,” she said. “But it’s a statement. There will be people trying to go places [Thursday], and it will be closed. There will be a sign on the door, and it will bring awareness.”
The scope of the protest has grown over the past couple of days, she said, and it appears that even more people will join it at the last minute.
Among the Twin Cities area restaurants expressing solidarity by staying closed for the day: 3 Squares, Boca Chica, Bottle Rocket, Café Ena, Costa Blanco Bistro, Edina Grill, Freehouse, Groveland Tap, Highland Grill, Hola Arepa, La Fresca, Longfellow Grill, Mercury Dining Room, Mesa Pizza, Rincon 38, Shindig Event Space, Sonora Grill, The Lowry, Tinto Cocina and World Street Kitchen.
On Wednesday, social media notices popped up about a related march to the State Capitol. Protesters are instructed to meet at 10:30 a.m. Thursday outside the Mexican Consulate, 797 7th St. E. in St. Paul. “No one knew that yesterday,” Santamaria said.
Fabiola Gomez, a spokeswoman for La Matraca, a weekly Hispanic magazine in Minnesota, said the publication began hearing rumors last week about a national protest, but it wasn’t until Tuesday that e-mails began to pour in from businesses planning to close Thursday. More than two dozen Lake Street businesses, including restaurants, hair salons and an insurance agency, will close.
On Facebook, Mesa Pizza announced it will close its three Minneapolis locations to show “our solidarity with everyone who is potentially affected by the current presidential administration’s policies toward immigrants.”
“Immigrants of all kinds make this country run,” the Mesa Pizza post said.
Kalina Terrazas, a manager for El Burrito Mercado in St. Paul, said many of the restaurant’s employees are joining the protests and that the owners want to express solidarity. The business counts nearly 200 employees and family members who will participate in the protest.
Across the street, Mauro Madrigal, a manager for La Guadalupana, said the owners also are closing with the support of their customers. He estimates that 90 percent of those coming into the shop this week will walk off their jobs on Thursday.
“This is something we need to do,” Madrigal said. “People need to hear our voices.”
Broader effect uncertain
Local 26 of the SEIU, a union that represents janitors, security guards and window washers, has more than 7,000 members, at least half of whom are immigrants, said union representative Brahim Kone. He said some workers might support the boycott, but it’s difficult to get a count because it’s not a union organized event.
Dan McElroy, executive vice president of the Minnesota Restaurant Assocation and the Minnesota Lodging Association, said many of his members heard about the boycott just this week and began talking to their staffs. Some merely want to know in advance if employees won’t be at work. Others are asking them not to walk off the job, he said.
“But we’re in a relatively tight market, so it’s more collaborative then confrontational,” he said. “We don’t know what impact this will have.”
Becky Gazca, a spokeswoman for the Midtown Global Market in Minneapolis, said many of its 45 businesses are owned by immigrants, but she didn’t know how many will close. The market will be open, but individual businesses can decide whether to participate in the protest.