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Posted May 1, 2010, 1:02 pm
As many as 8,000 opponents of Arizona's new immigration law marched downtown to a May Day rally in Armory Park on Saturday morning.
At one point the crowd stretched from curb to curb on South Sixth Avenue, and was several blocks long as it moved towards hundreds of demonstrators already waiting in the park.
Many carried signs critical of SB 1070 and Gov. Jan Brewer, as the marchers called "Si se puede," a Spanish civil rights chant that loosely means "Yes we can."
Groups of dancers and drumnmers were dressed in Aztec-inspired garb, while one contingent parodied Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers by dancing to Vanilla Ice's "Ice, Ice Baby" while wearing pink pig noses and requesting identification from marchers and bystanders.
Tucson police estimated the crowd at 5,000-8,000 as it moved down the street. In a media release after the rally, Tucson Police Department spokesman Sgt. Fabian Pacheco estimated the number of marchers at 7,000.
Marchers carried signs saying "We are human," "Are we still 'one nation under God?'," "Pilgrims were illegal first," and "Brewer La Fuhrer."
A small group of 30 supporters of the new law from Arizonans for Immigration Control stood opposite the park, on the sidewalk in front of the Tucson Children's Museum. One man chanted into a bullhorn "I have to follow the law, you have to follow the law. I'm no one special, you're no one special."
Supporters of the law carried signs saying "Mexico is not our friend," "Mexico out of U.S.," and "Remember the Alamo Mexico."
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70 Tucson police officers patrolled the area, keeping demonstrators and supporters of the law apart. Volunteers among the marchers wore orange vests and helped guide the crowd into the park, keeping the two factions separated.
"The demonstration was peaceful by all accounts and no arrests were made," said Sgt. Pacheco. "The success of this event can be attributed to the responsible manner in which community members elected to gather and demonstrate."
Community organizer Angel Sanchez spoke to the crowd from the bandstand in the park. "You will not defeat us," he said, motioning to the counter-protest across the street. "You will not destroy our community with your hatred."
Appearing on stage in support of the march were Rep. Raül Grijalva, Pima County Supervisor Richard Elias, City Councilwomen Karin Uhlich and Regina Romero, United Farm Workers activist Dolores Huerta and singer Linda Ronstadt.
Ronstadt, a native Tucsonan, urged the marchers to fight against the new law. "The legislature has been hijacked by right-wing extremists," she said. "Arizona has an international reputation of fast becoming a fascist police state."
Grijalva continued his call for an economic boycott of Arizona while speaking to the crowd. Alternating speaking in English and Spanish, the Democratic congressman called on the crowd to continue to oppose the Arizona's law requiring local law enforcement to determine the immigration status of those they suspect are in the country illegally.
In an interview after speaking on the stage, Grijalva said the last minute changes that HB 2162 made to SB 1070 "are just cosmetic. The presumption clause is still a valid challenge" to the law's constitutionality, he said.
"They've stepped off a cliff," by enacting the law, Grijalva said. "They were on the edge, and now they're over," he said. Grijalva said he is confident that an injuction will keep the law from being enforced, and that it will be found unconstitutional.
TucsonSentinel.com's original reporting and curation of border and immigration news is generously supported in part by a grant from the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation.