The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

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Thousands rally for immigrant rights in downtown L.A.

The “Day Without Immigrants” rally started with a massive crowd marching briskly up Broadway, then down First Street in Los Angeles toward City Hall on May 1 around noon. The crowd of about 400,000 enthusiastically shouted slogans like “Si, se puede!” (Yes, we can), “Viva la raza!” (Long live our people), “U.S.A.,” and “We’re Americans, too!”

Passing cars honked, inciting cheers from the marchers and people crowding the sidewalks.

There was a large police presence, but the crowd was calm.

The response to the rally was positive, with immigrants and non-immigrants alike voicing their support for immigrants’ human rights and animosity toward immigration bill HR 4437.

The bill would make it a felony to help undocumented immigrants and it would also criminalize them.

Baby strollers and small children were a prevalent feature of the crowd.

At one point, a female

LAPD officer took her baton out and walked down First Street.

In response, crowd members, many of whom were cradling infants or pushing strollers, shouted, “Put your baton away!” in protest.

Most members of the crowd carried U.S. flags, sometimes with an accompanying Mexican flag. Signs carried by marchers included messages such as “The Great American Boycott, 2006,” “Amnistia General” (general amnesty), and “We didn’t cross the border, the border crossed us.”

Signs and banners lining the sidewalk advertised everything from free water to revolution.

Once at City Hall, the crowd continued to grow to a massive size, and people packed tightly around the front of the building. They chanted slogans in Spanish and English, waving flags and signs, and listening to speeches amplified across an ocean of people.

A mariachi band played nearby, leading a gathered crowd in folk songs and rally songs.

Stickers, pamphlets, Tee shirts and flyers were available at various booths along the streets.

While the vast majority of the crowd was made up of native Spanish speakers, there was a significant representation from various ethnic groups present at the rally showing their support.

Renee Geathers and her sister Michelle came from Pasadena to show their solidarity with the marchers. In regards to HR 4437 and issues of immigrant rights, she said, “It doesn’t affect me directly, but it affects all of us as Americans.”

Michelle Geathers added, “This is not a fight for immigrants. It’s a fight all Americans need to join. First Muslims are targeted, then immigrants. Who’s next?”

Michelle Geathers went on to say that she and her sister, who are African American, see the issues as “different minority groups being targeted in order to divert attention away” from real issues, such as the war in Iraq and high gas prices.

“It’s a divisive issue. One year it’s gay marriage; the next it’s immigrants. We have to come together,” Geathers said.

Renee Geathers chimed in that they feel Americans need to “keep their eyes on the real issue,” and not be diverted by campaigns driven by hate.

The Lazar family came from West Los Angeles, wearing cardboard signs that read, “My friends are not criminals,” and “My students are not criminals.”

“We’re here to show support for our friends and neighbors who are immigrants. They are not criminals. They’re great friends and students,” said Ingrid Lazar, who is training to be a teacher.

She added that, her community is much better off because “they’re here.”

“We have a dream too,” said Marco Cabrera, an immigrant who is in the United States with documentation. Cabrera said he was disturbed over the fact that immigrants and their children are often separated. “Just like they did to the slaves, they separate us from our children,” he said, explaining that often children who were born here will stay while their non-citizen parents will be deported back to Mexico. “We spend a lot of money saving whales and eagles, but they treat Mexicans worse than animals,” he said, adding that he sees the way Mexican migrants and laborers are treated as a “more modern version of slavery.”

“With this new law, if I bring someone who is illegal to the hospital, I could be arrested,” he said. He said that he hopes the law is not passed, that “the vote of the Spanish speaking people will have an impact. We have a voice too.”

Javier Acosta, a 24-year-old carpenter contractor, is here illegally. Through his bilingual cousin’s interpretation, he said, “I came here because I want to eat. I want to work. Where I’m from, there’s not a lot of money or work. There are no opportunities to work.”

“We just come to work and we are honest people,” he said. “We don’t harm anybody.”

He added that he thinks anyone who immigrates to this nation is a criminal, and should be kicked out, but for the most part, “we’re just here to work.” Acosta managed to obtain his G.E.D. (general equivalency diploma) while here, and if given the opportunity, would like to continue his education.

Acosta’s cousin, Marvin Rojas, 19, was born in the United States, and is a student.

“I am here to support family, co-workers. My dad was an immigrant,” he said.

Cabrera’s daughter, 16-year-old Yadera Olvera from the Inland Empire, skipped a day of school to come out to the noon protest. She said she had come to fight for immigrant rights.

“We’re not criminals. We’re teenagers, and we want to become something,” she said. “We’re people, too. God didn’t create borders.”

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