Thread: Sacramento's "Marcha"
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- 03-26-2006, 12:51 PM #1
- Join Date
- Dec 1969
- Sacramento, CA
From your Northern California field associate
March voices Latino anger
The rally honoring Cesar Chavez becomes vehicle to express indignation over proposed immigration limits.
By Todd Milbourn -- Bee Staff Writer
Published 2:15 am PST Sunday, March 26, 2006
Story appeared in Metro section, Page B1
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Chants of "Sí, se puede" (Yes, we can) and "Aquí estamos y no nos vamos" (We're here and we're not leaving) reverberated through downtown Sacramento as thousands rallied Saturday for better wages and the right to organize and against efforts to toughen immigration laws.
The rally, held since 2000 to honor the late labor leader Cesar Chavez, usually draws several hundred people. This year, organizers said more than 5,000 took to the streets, voicing frustrations at recent federal proposals to curb illegal immigration.
Protesters blasted a bill the House of Representatives passed in December that would require employers to check the immigration status of all workers against a federal database. The legislation, scheduled for debate in the Senate this week, also would make it a felony to work in the United States without the proper paperwork.
"We're sending a message across this country that we are here to work, not to be criminalized," said Al Rojas, a former farmworker and labor organizer from Sacramento, to thunderous applause.
The rally, organized by the AFL-CIO-affiliated Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, coincided with protests in cities across the county that drew far more people than organizers anticipated. The Los Angeles rally drew an estimated 500,000 people, clogging the streets in front of City Hall.
In Sacramento, protesters from as far as Fresno and Fremont marched shoulder to shoulder across the Tower Bridge to Cesar Chavez Plaza, waving Mexican and United Farm Workers union flags and hoisting signs that read, "We are not criminals, we are human."
"Why are we fighting against immigration when immigration built this country?" asked Juan Llamas, a 20-year-old student at California State University, Sacramento.
Immigration has become a particularly heated issue as the 2006 midterm elections near, with both political parties trying to score points on the topic.
Rojas said the furor over immigration is a "smoke screen" designed to inflame the electorate by playing to prejudice.
"We have a Congress and a Senate that are being led by aspirations of staying in control," Rojas said. "They are using immigration to hype up non-people of color. So instead of bringing people together, they are dividing this country."
The protesters said immigrants are the backbone of the U.S. economy, often laboring in dirty, dangerous conditions doing jobs many U.S.-born residents won't. Trying to keep them out of the country would have disastrous social and economic consequences, they said.
"Drive to Salinas. You'll see these are the people who are putting our food on the table," said Zeke Perez, a 53-year-old construction worker from El Dorado Hills who arrived at the rally after a morning shift.
Protesters also focused on workers' rights and what they called the "Wal-Mart-ization" of the workplace - a proliferation of low-wage, nonunion jobs with few benefits. They used the ongoing union drive at Sacramento's Blue Diamond Growers as a rallying cry.
A federal judge cited Blue Diamond, an almond processor, March 17 for unfair labor practices and ordered the company to reinstate two workers fired during the organizing drive.
One of the Saturday event's lead organizers, Agustin Ramirez of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, said focusing on immigration allows politicians to avoid dealing with issues like stagnant wages and job security.
"It's hard to understand why our legislatures go after undocumented workers when here are our own citizens who are being fired and there's nothing we can do about it," said Ramirez.
Guillermo Durgin, a labor organizer and member of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, addressed declining union membership.
"We have to be more militant and more aggressive in our organizing," he said. "And for those already in a union, we've got to be more aggressive in giving them a say."
After the rally, Rojas said he hoped the event would serve as a "wake-up call" for working people to get more involved in politics. He said he was especially glad to see so many undocumented workers show up.
"That's the most important message being sent," Rojas said. "These people are no longer hiding. Their voices are being heard."
About the writer:
The Bee's Todd Milbourn can be reached at (916) 321-1063 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sacramento is going to get this again soon. I need help up hereIt will not be enough to send a letter. We will have to march on washington and dictate terms in the white house
- 03-26-2006, 01:35 PM #2
- Join Date
- Jun 2005
- North Carolina
AyatollahGondola find out from city officials if these people were even charged. Were police even there or were the illegal given free range as they were in Charlotte, NC?
- 03-26-2006, 01:40 PM #3
- Join Date
- Dec 1969
- Sacramento, CA
Very interesting stuff here. Sacramento police were granted wide power to limit sign size and other related protest implements right after the WTO protests in Washington state. Those were immediately used for the protests here. I don't think though, they were enforced for the angry latino march.It will not be enough to send a letter. We will have to march on washington and dictate terms in the white house