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Immigrant Rights Protests Spread -- New Chapter in Civil Rights Movement

New America Media, News Digest, Translated and Compiled by Elena Shore Posted: Mar 25, 2006

Hispanic media report that hundreds of thousands of immigrants and their supporters are marching in cities across the country on behalf of immigrant rights.
map of protests
In the last few weeks, more than 50 demonstrations described by some cities as the largest in their history have occurred in Milwaukee, Providence, Trenton, Minneapolis, Knoxville, Seattle, St, Louis, Staten Island, Chicago, Washington, Portland, Grand Rapids, Tucson, Phoenix, Atlanta and Los Angeles.

Los Angeles

Hundreds of thousands of people marched through the streets of Los Angeles Saturday, March 25 to legalize the millions of undocumented immigrants in the country, reports Jazmn Ortega in Spanish-language daily La Opinin. An estimated 500,000 demonstrators flooded the streets in protest of the Sensenbrenner bill (HR4437), which analysts predict will turn undocumented immigrants into criminals, along with those who help them, such as doctors, priests and teachers.
People protesting
Saturdays massive protest for immigrant rights had its first "pop quiz" Friday, March 24 when about two thousand students in the Los Angeles area left their classes and took to the streets, reports Jorge Morales Almada in La Opinin.

At 8:10 a.m. on Friday, about 500 students walked out of their classes. Half of them headed for South Gate High School and the other half walked to Bell High School, where hundreds of students were gathered. Guarded by police, they continued marching to Jordan and Southeast High Schools, crossing through streets in the predominantly Latino cities of Huntington Park, South Gate and Bell.

The protest was organized days before through emails and flyers, reports La Opinin.

Police reported no arrests or major difficulties, except for traffic problems in the area.

I think this is racial, Bianca Gudiel, a 16-year-old student who participated in Fridays walk-out, told La Opinin. Lots of Blacks, Asians and Europeans have come to this country. My mom is an immigrant too and she came here to get ahead. Everyone came here for freedom, to have a good life, so we can have a good education, she said. Even the governor is an immigrant.

Jos Artemio Arreola, one of the central organizers of the March 10 protest in Chicago, joined organizers in Los Angeles on Saturday, reports Andrea Alegra in the Spanish-language newspaper Hoy.

They are working in a very similar way to what we did in Chicago, Arreola told Hoy, adding that, unlike the Chicago protest, the Los Angeles march had the support of unions.

The most important thing is to try to send a message of unity, he said, and not to forget that the eyes of the world are on Los Angeles this weekend.

Chicago

The Chicago protest drew more than 300,000 demonstrators, according to Spanish-language newspaper La Raza.

Led by pro-immigrant organizations like Centro Sin Fronteras (Center Without Borders) and the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant Rights, it included protesters from a variety of backgrounds. Although the majority of protestors were Mexican, other groups also participated in the march, including Irish, Salvadoran, Chinese, Vietnamese and Polish immigrants.

Meanwhile, thousands of immigrants protested Friday, March 24 in Atlanta, Phoenix and Tucson.

Phoenix

With approximately 30,000 protesters, the march in Phoenix was the largest in the citys history, reports La Opinin.

A human river flooded the streets of the city, the newspaper reports, as men, women and children marched toward the office of Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Arizona with signs that read Im not a criminal, Im a worker and If my job is permanent my residency should be too.
Borders crossed us sign
Mexican immigrant Irma Lpez told La Opinin that she did not support these kinds of racist laws.

What we want, she said, is for them to give us the opportunity to work honestly, and for them to respect our rights as human beings.

Tucson

In Tucson, another 1,500 people participated in a similar protest.

Atlanta

And in Atlanta, Latino workers and consumers made their absence felt in a citywide boycott, reports La Opinin.

According to organizer Teodoro Maus, an estimated 80,000 Latinos did not show up for work on Friday.

About 200 demonstrators gathered in front of the Georgia Capitol in a separate protest. Some demonstrators were wrapped in the Mexican flag and carried signs that said, Dont be scared, were Hispanics and We have a dream too, referencing the famous civil rights speech by Martin Luther King Jr.

The Atlanta boycott was organized by the March 17 Alliance, a coalition of radio broadcasters, religious and community leaders who called for the protest one day after the Georgia House of Representatives approved bill SB529, introduced by Republican Sen. Chip Rogers.

The bill will return to the state senate for a vote with new amendments, including one that would force undocumented immigrants to pay an additional five percent charge when they send remittances electronically.

More protests are slated for Monday, March 27, when faith leaders from across the country will hold a demonstration in Washington, DC. And in Boston, more than 500 protesters are expected to march to Tremont Temple for a religious celebration in support of immigration reform.

Photos by Eduardo Stanley. Graphic by Peter Micek.

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