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Protests across the U.S. show

Arizona’s racist law is attack on all

Published Jun 3, 2010 9:15 PM

Protests in support of immigrants and against Arizona’s racist anti-immigrant legislation were held across the U.S. in solidarity with a national march and rally in Phoenix May 29 of 200,000 people. In many cities demonstrators also targeted similar legislation being pushed in their states as well as Obama’s failure to pass promised progressive national legislation for immigrant rights.

Honduran activist Lucy Pagoada in
East Harlem, N.Y.
WW photo: Brenda Ryan

On May 29 protesters in New York held a street rally in East Harlem’s El Barrio, a center of the Latino/a immigrant community, to say down with the racist law in Arizona. They added their voices to the thousands marching in Arizona against the law.

The demonstrators began the day with a walk to bring attention to the plight of the survivors of the Katrina-Rita Hurricanes. They marched from Marcus Garvey Park to the rally at the corner of 116th th St. and Lexington Ave. Members of the community greeted them warmly. One Latina visiting from Florida took a sign proclaiming “¡Boicot Arizona! ¡Legalizacion immediatamente!” Waving the sign she shouted in support of immigrants and against the Arizona law.

Larry Holmes, a leader of the Bail Out the People Movement, which organized the rally, told the crowd: “No worker is illegal. Racism is illegal. Poverty should be illegal. Homelessness should be illegal. Joblessness should be illegal.”

WW photo: Joseph Piette

Lucy Pagoada, a high school teacher and Honduran activist, declared that the problem of Arizona is the problem of everyone. “If we don’t act then it will happen in New York,” she said. “It is an attack against all of us. Let us say no to the racist law of Arizona but yes to the people of Arizona.”

BOPM organizer Gavrielle Gemma said she was unemployed because of corporate America and Wall Street, not because of immigrants. “We need to get together — African American, Latino, white, Asian, U.S. born, immigrant and undocumented — in a powerful struggle to demand the right to have a job.”

A rally for immigrant rights and against Arizona legislation targeting undocumented workers drew more than 100 people in a noontime gathering outside the Constitution Center on May 26 in Philadelphia. After hearing speakers and some entertainers, the demonstrators marched to the Federal Building.

Peruvian immigrant Carmen Marcet reminded people that it was large-scale protests that stopped a 2006 congressional bill that targeted undocumented immigrants and that a similar fight is needed now.

Pennsylvania is one of 17 states where legislators have proposed laws similar to Arizona’s Senate Bill 1070. The rally included labor, religious and community activists, and several people from the Philadelphia area who were heading to Arizona to take part in upcoming protests.

On May 29 in San Francisco several hundred immigrant families and immigrant rights activists marched along the scenic Embarcadero to AT&T Park, home of the S.F. Giants baseball team. They picketed outside the main entrance until the game between the Arizona Diamondbacks and Giants started, protesting Arizona’s racist immigration policy and anti-Latino/a racial profiling by police.

Some demonstrators proudly wore their S.F. Giants shirts as they appealed to the hundreds of baseball fans pouring into the baseball stadium to take a stand against Arizona-style racism. Many wore new “Do I look illegal?” T-shirts while chanting: “Todos somos Arizona; legalizacion para todos” and “We didn’t cross the border, the border crossed us!” Others carried signs, many homemade, reading: “Repeal SB1070 in AZ, Unconditional amnesty in all 50!” and “1960 Alabama, 2010 Arizona.” This action was organized by the SF May Day 2010 coalition.

More than 100 people heard Antonio Bustamante, chair of the Arizona Hispanic Bar Association’s Civil Rights Task Force, speak May 29 at historic St. Anne’s Church in Detroit’s Latino/a community. Bustamante delivered a rousing account of the struggle against SB 1070 and called for the boycott of Arizona.

Young organizers from One Michigan urged actions including a protest at the Lansing, Mich., State Capitol on June 2; an immigrant rights march at the Kalamazoo High School commencement address by President Barack Obama tentatively set for June 10; and a rally prior to U.S. Civil Rights Commission hearing Michigan’s copycat SB 1070 proposal at 9 a.m., June 18 at the Wayne State University Law School in Detroit, followed by a 5:30 p.m. mass demonstration at the Arizona Diamondbacks baseball game at Detroit’s Comerica Park initiated by the Michigan Emergency Committee Against War and Injustice.

Uniting in solidarity with the struggle against Arizona’s SB 1070, people from Dallas, Houston, Corpus Christi, San Antonio and Hondo gathered at the Texas capitol in Austin to say “No!” to racism in Arizona and Texas. The rally began with an Indigenous blessing and dances. Speaker after speaker vowed to organize against Texas State Representative Debbie Riddle, who plans to introduce an Arizona-type bill in Texas when the legislature convenes in January 2011.

Organized by the Austin Immigrant Rights Coalition, the rally also had a message for President Obama: “Obama, you went back on your promise to promote family values,” said Michael Chavez of Houston. “Deporting and separating family members should not be an American value.”

Chavel Lopez from the Southwest Workers Union in San Antonio called the Arizona law racist and said, “Organize and fight this legislation!” The SWU took a bus with over 50 people to Phoenix for the national action. A speaker from the International Action Center said that all workers must stand up with immigrants and work together to defeat SB 1070 and the proposed Texas legislation. “This is not a problem for those with brown skin, but an attack on all workers because an injury to one is an injury to all. In unity we can defeat the racists!”

Joan Marquardt, Betsey Piette, Gloria Rubac, Brenda Ryan and Mike Shane contributed to this article.