Arizona marches against hate

PHOENIX — It may have been Arizona’s biggest demonstration ever. The May 29 protest against SB1070 drew tens of thousands. SB 1070 is Arizona’s newest racist law, allegedly aimed at undocumented immigrants, but which is sure to expose millions to racial profiling and intimidation by state and local police.

Organizers estimated the crowd at 150,000. Marchers filled all five lanes and the sidewalks of Washington Avenue as marchers arrived for a rally at the state Capitol, and an hour and a half later they were still arriving. Tens of thousands more avoided the five-mile walk in the Arizona heat and joined in at the Capitol. Many thousands “without papers” were part of the protest, carrying signs which read, “Undocumented – unafraid.”

Protesters were male and female, young and old, black, brown and white. They were festive and spirited, but determined to fight back against Governor Jan Brewer and the ultra-right gang that runs the state legislature.

Thousands came from California, Texas, and every state in the union. Thousands more came from Tucson, Flagstaff, Prescott and other Arizona cities and towns. Most of the demonstrators, however, were residents of Phoenix and Maricopa County already burdened by years of racist harassment from Sheriff Joe Arpaio and County Attorney Andrew Thomas.

At the rally, one speaker after another denounced SB1070 and called on the Obama administration to intervene to protect human rights.

The program opened with a Native American ceremony with speakers pointing out that immigrants targeted by SB1070 are mostly indigenous people from Mexico and Central America and that it will subject all Mexican American and Native people to intimidation and racial profiling.

“Today we are demanding that Congress pass comprehensive immigration reform, not next week, not next month – do it now!” thundered AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka.

Labor leaders have written President Obama and Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano calling on the federal government to not collaborate with Arizona in implementing this law, he said, adding that the answer is a jobs bill that will put all Americans back to work at decent wages.

SEIU International Executive Vice President Elisio Medina denounced Arizona’s right-wing politicians, including Senators Kyl, and McCain for backing the racist law, calling on them to, “Come back from the dark side” and noting that history will reward courage and not political expediency.

Also speaking were Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon, United Farm Worker leader Dolores Huerta, Isabel Garcia from Tucson’s Coalicion de Derechos Humanos, Phoenix’s the Rev. Warren Stewart of the First Institutional Baptist Church, and many more public officials and community leaders.

Music was provided by Jenni Rivera and the Outer Nationals.

There were numerous calls to repeal the racist SB1070 as well as the recently passed law to outlaw ethnic studies in state schools. Speakers and signs called for defeating Governor Brewer and the racist legislators in November when Brewer and the entire legislature will be up for reelection.

The human rights organizations, which organized the rally, are now planning the next steps in the campaign against SB1070: massive voter registration and turn out the vote campaigns, coupled with keeping up the almost daily street protests and grass roots organizing.

Later the same day a rally in support of SB1070 attracted a much smaller crowd of supporters. TV coverage of that rally showed an older and almost entirely white gathering. As usual, most of the corporate media gave that relatively tiny gathering equal coverage.

Photo: Protesters take to the streets by the tens of thousands on May 1, 2010, including in Tucson, Ariz., pictured above. (PW)



Joe Bernick
Joe Bernick

Joe Bernick is the Director of Salt of the Earth Labor College, Tucson, Arizona.