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Small turnout for May Day march

May 1, 2011 | 10:36 am

There were American flags, union banners and vendors hawking treats such as ice cream and hot dogs wrapped in bacon.

But what was missing from this year's May Day march on a crystal-clear Sunday morning were the crowds.

By 10 a.m. only a few hundred immigrant rights and labor activists had gathered at Broadway and Olympic Boulevard in downtown Los Angeles to rally public support for legislation that would legalize the nation's 11 million illegal immigrants.

"It's really sad," Luis Ortiz, an ice cream vendor who has been coming to the rallies for the last 15 years, said of the small turnout. "I've sold very little, almost nothing."  

Plenty of police officers on foot and bike patrol were on hand to monitor the crowd. 

But Sunday's turnout was a far cry from the excitement and unity that infused the May Day march in 2006, when hundreds of thousands of people marched through downtown Los Angeles.

Since then, activists have deemphasized street actions in favor of change at the ballot box through promoting citizenship and voter registration.

Last May, galvanized by Arizona's controversial anti-immigration law, about 60,000 demonstrators took to the streets of L.A.

This year organizers said they expected more than 50,000 people to turn out. But the permit for the event estimated the crowd at about 10,000.

Activists marched north on Broadway and an afternoon rally was scheduled near City Hall. 

-- Sam Quinones