1,000,000 immigrants march for human rights
Los Angeles, California. Saturday March 25, 2006.
Notes by Walter Lippmann. Photos from various news sources. Written March 26, 2006.
Great photo gallery here: http://la.indymedia.org/news/2006/03/151662.php?theme=1
And another great gallery: http://actionla.org/Campaigns/GrandMarcha/photos/index.htm
And still another one here: http://la.indymedia.org/news/2006/03/151463.php
And yet one more gallery: http://www.indybay.org/news/2006/03/1811108.php
The Los Angeles Times says half a million. People in the crowd were saying that the police estimate was a million. Whichever it was, and, of course, it wasn't possible to make a count, this was clearly the largest protest of any kind in the history of Los Angeles. It was spectacular and it was inspiring to be present. The L.A. Times captured something very central:
"The marchers included both longtime residents and the newly arrived, bound by a desire for a better life and a love for this county."
Here are a few notes and personal observations on what I saw at the march.
The composition was overwhelmingly, probably higher than 95% or 98% Latino. I doubt I saw fifty people that I knew during the course of the day, quite different from last weekend's anti-war march of five thousand where there were many familiar faces. These were newly organized, educated, mobilized and motivated people. One look at the closing and the faces and this was obvious, if the raw numbers didn't tell the story. Many people carried Mexican flags. Smaller numbers carried Venezuelan, Colombian, Nicaraguan or Salvadoran flags. But if anything, there were more American (i.e. US) flags than those of any other nationality. There were organized groups which provided excellent printed signs, from ANSWER, IAC, the Latino Movement USA, and various others. Few found their ways to the ground at the end of the march. People must have kept them for souvenirs and to be used at future marches. This is a population, a community, a people, or more accurately a series of peoples who are being politicalized as they watch the threat to their lives and ability to work from rampant racism, particularly in the media. A truck from FOX NEWS, among the most virulent of these, was surrounded and booed vigorously at one point toward the end of the march, immediately adjacent to city hall where the speeches (which I never heard) were scheduled to have ben.
Some of the hand-made signs I saw were ones saying things like: I'm a Mexican, not a terrorist. California needs us to put the vegetables and fruit on its tables. I'm Illegal: Where's my cell (this was carried by a mother pushing her baby in a carriage). Some people carried large crucifixes. The U.S. is made of immigrants. One sign (and there had to have been others) showed dead U.S. soldiers from Iraq, in uniform. One way some undocumented individuals have qualified for citizenship was by volunteering for the military. (They qualify for U.S. citizenship if they are killed in combat.) Participants ranged from the aged and infirm in wheelchairs to babies in their carriages.
Trade unions, churches and other community organizations clearly pulled out the stops for this mobilization. Beyond the local Pacifica affiliate, KPFK, which has daily Spanish programming and which helped bring out the crowd, I was struck by the role of the principal Spanish-language local daily, LA OPINION, the largest Spanish-language newspaper published in the United States. There had been school walkouts the previous day and mass marches in Denver, Colorado and other cities. The Saturday edition of LA OPINION featured a lead editorial calling on its readers to come out for the march. It's a shame they don't have a PDF of the front page since you cannot see that online and thus cannot get an idea of how powerful the paper's appeal had to have been. I'll have to describe it to you. LA OPINION is a full-sized six-column daily paper. The banner headline was "A LAS CALLES! (To the streets!) and featured photographs of the school walkouts in Los Angeles, the 20,000 in Phoenix, also in Atlanta, Cleveland and Kansas City. These were smaller photos. Then a photo showing a sea of people took up perhaps a quarter of the entire front page showing the Phoenix march, a sea of humanity. To the left of this was a diagram with the march route and where the buses parked. This was strikingly reminiscent of the way people are mobilized in Cuba where a banner head indicating the purpose and directions for the march are clearly indicated. To the lower right side, under the fold, was a photo of Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Ernesto Derbez kissing the U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice under a headline "Mexican optimism". Above the banner TO THE STREETS! was small and narrow story about the Mexican president Vicente Fox saying he's looking toward an accord with the U.S. about immigration.
I never heard any of the speeches. In Los Angeles the normal mode of transportation, for those who can afford it, is the automobile, but we're learning now to get around using public transportation, which is what I used to get to the march yesterday.
Walter Lippmann, CubaNews
Here's an excellent gallery of photos from the
And excellent political analysis of the big march:
FULL LA OPINION COVERAGE:
THE FINAL CALL, Published by the Nation of Islam
Un Pueblo Unido - Latinos fight for rights, services beyond borders
LOS ANGELES (FinalCall.com) - The sea of more than a million protestors wading through downtown Los Angeles March 25, compressed shoulder-to-shoulder between the city’s skyscrapers, sent a clear message of opposition to the Bush administration’s push of anti-immigrant legislation: "No to border walls and the criminalization of immigrants."
Cuba's Juventud Rebelde asks
What's next after the mega-march?
From Immigrant Solidarity: http://www.immigrantsolidarity.org/
From the Los Angeles Times
More Than 500,000 Rally in L.A. for Immigrants' Rights
By Teresa Watanabe and Anna Gorman Times Staff Writer
2:51 PM PST, March 25, 2006
Joining what some are calling the nation's largest mobilization of immigrants ever, hundreds of thousands of people boisterously marched in downtown Los Angeles Saturday to protest federal legislation that would crack down on undocumented immigrants, penalize those who help them and build a security wall on the U.S. southern border. Spirited crowds representing labor, religious groups, civil-rights advocates and ordinary immigrants stretched over 26 blocks of downtown Los Angeles from Adams Blvd. along Spring Street and Broadway to City Hall, tooting kazoos, waving American flags and chanting "Si se puede!" (Yes we can!). The crowd, estimated by police at more than 500.000, represented one of the largest protest marches in Los Angeles history, surpassing Vietnam War demonstrations and the 70,000 who rallied downtown against Proposition 187, a 1994 state initiative that denied public benefits to undocumented migrants.
The marchers included both longtime residents and the newly arrived, bound by a desire for a better life and a love for this county.
Arbelica Lazo, 40, illegally immigrated from El Salvador two decades ago but said she now owns two business and pays $7,000 in taxes annually.
Jose Alberto Salvador, 33, came here illegally just four months ago to find work to support the wife and five children he left behind; in his native Guatemala, he said, what little work he could find paid only $10 a day. "As much as we need this country, we love this country," Salvador said, waving a stick with both the American and Guatemalan flag. "This country gives us opportunities we don't get at home."
Saturday's rally, spurred by anger over legislation passed by the U.S. House of Representatives last December, was part of what many say is an unprecedented effort to organize immigrants and their supporters across the nation. The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee is to take up efforts Monday to complete work on a comprehensive immigration reform proposal. Unlike the House bill, which beefed up border security and toughened immigration laws, the Senate committee's version is expected to include a guest worker program and a path to legalization for the nation's 10 to 12 million undocumented immigrants.
In recent weeks, hundreds of thousands of people have staged demonstrations in more than a dozen cities. The Roman Catholic Church and other religious communities have launched immigrant rights campaigns, with Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony taking a leading role in speaking out against the House bill and calling on his priests to defy its provisions that would make felons of anyone who aided undocumented immigrants. In addition, several cities, including Los Angeles, have passed resolutions against the House legislation and some, such as Maywood, have declared itself a "sanctuary" for undocumented immigrants.
"There has never been this kind of mobilization in the immigrant community ever," said Joshua Hoyt, executive director of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights. "They have kicked the sleeping giant. It's the beginning of a massive immigrant civil rights struggle."
One of the marchers Saturday, Jose Alberto Salvador, 33, left his wife and children behind in Guatemala four months ago to cross the border into the United States so he could earn enough money to return home and buy a house.
Jorge Valdovinos, 43, is a legal immigrant from Mexico who has three US-born children and works as a financial advisor.
Amid a sea of American and Mexican flags, protesters chanted "Si Se Puede!" and waved banners in Spanish that read, "We aren't criminals" and "The USA is made by immigrants."
"I love this country as if it were my own, for the opportunities it has given me," said Laurentino Ramirez, an illegal immigrant from Mexico who works at a garment factory. "The law is unjust for those who don't have papers. We come to work. We don't come to do harm to anyone."
Many of the marchers were immigrants themselves — both legal and illegal -- from Mexico and Central America. Some had just crossed the border, while others had been here for decades. There were construction workers and business owners; families with young children and people in wheelchairs. Throughout the afternoon, protesters heard speakers demand a path toward legalization and denounce HR 4437, which would tighten border enforcement and crack down on employers who hire undocumented workers.
The rally was organized by numerous unions, religious organizations and immigrant rights groups and publicized through Spanish-language media, which encouraged participants to wear white to symbolize peace and bring American flags. The mostly peaceful march stretched over 26 blocks, shutting down streets and tying up traffic around downtown for hours. Police estimated the crowd at 500,000, more than five times the size of the 1994 rally against California's Proposition 187, which would have denied services to undocumented immigrants. Participants said the massive mobilization shows that immigrants' voices must be heard and that they are contributing to the country's economy.