Huge crowds turn out for LA's immigration march - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Huge crowds turn out for LA's immigration march

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People demonstrate during a march for federal immigration reform and against Arizona's controversial immigration law, Saturday, May 1, 2010 in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jason Redmond) People demonstrate during a march for federal immigration reform and against Arizona's controversial immigration law, Saturday, May 1, 2010 in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jason Redmond)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Tens of thousands of demonstrators galvanized by opposition to Arizona's tough law marched through the streets of downtown Los Angeles to demand an overhaul of immigration laws, some holding signs calling for a boycott of the Grand Canyon State.

Singer Gloria Estefan kicked off the march by climbing on a flatbed truck to say that illegal immigrants should not be considered criminals. She said the United States was a nation of immigrants.

"We're honest people, we're good people," the Cuban-born singer said. "We've given a lot to this country. This country has given a lot to us."

Cardinal Roger Mahony stood on the truck and joined the crowd in chanting, "Si, se puede," or "Yes, we can," in Spanish. Streets and sidewalks were packed with tens of thousands of people as horns blared.

The march ended nearly five hours later after a steady stream of politicians and labor leaders stepped on stage on a perfect spring afternoon to denounce the Arizona law and insist that President Barack Obama tackle immigration reform.

"We say no to Arizona, no to racism, no to hate," said Janice Hahn, a Los Angeles city councilwoman and Democratic candidate for California lieutenant governor.

Police officials estimated about 50,000 demonstrators took to the streets at the rally's peak in the early afternoon.

Police had prepared for an anticipated 100,000 people, and a ground force of officers on foot, bicycles and motorcycles were making patrols.

Two people were arrested, one for vandalism and one for public drunkenness, Los Angeles Police Officer Cleon Joseph said.

"Overall everything was extremely peaceful," Joseph said. "Very well done by everybody."

Organizers handed out T-shirts that read, "Legalize Arizona" and "Boycott Arizona." Marchers waved American flags, along with many from other countries, including Mexico, the Philippines, Nicaragua and Guatemala. Hot dog and ice cream vendors wheeled carts along with the crowd.

David Cho, an illegal immigrant from Korea and a student at University of California, Los Angeles, drew loud cheers when he said he dreamed of joining the Air Force and becoming a U.S. senator.

"I feel like I'm living inside an invisible prison cell," he said.

Many came to protest Arizona's new law requiring local and state law enforcement officers to question people about their immigration status if there's reason to suspect they're in the country illegally.

"If they see someone with black hair and Latino face, they're going to stop you without any reason and ask for your papers," said Eleazar Cruz, 37, a Los Angeles bartender from Mexico who paid a smuggler $300 to cross the border illegally in San Diego in 1985 and later became a legal resident. "It's crazy."

Cruz participated in a massive May 1 pro-immigration march in 2006 — upset at the time by a proposed federal crackdown on illegal immigration — but was too busy to attend the annual marches since then. The Arizona law brought him back.

"We're angry," he said.

Oswaldo Osorio, an illegal immigrant from Mexico who paid his smuggler $150 to cross the border in San Diego 18 years ago, turned out with his wife, also in the U.S. illegally, and their two U.S.-born daughters. All four waved American flags.

Osorio, 38, said his family wanted to make a statement for giving immigrants legal status and protesting Arizona's law.

Benjamin Hernandez, 44, attended his first political rally since coming to the United States illegally 10 years ago. He lived in Arizona for two years after paying a smuggler $1,200 to walk across the desert, then moved to Ventura to join his father, where he works construction jobs.

Hernandez said his nephews in Arizona are upset by the law but won't leave the state.

"I won't go visit them," he said. "They can come visit me. After working so hard, why would I want to lose everything?"

There were few dissenting voices. Demonstrators ignored a man who stood silently on a sidewalk as they walked past him with a sign that read, "Balance the Budget. Deport Illegal Aliens."

In San Francisco, about two dozen counterprotesters stood behind a barricade at the city's Civic Center, separated from pro-immigration rights supporters across the street by a line of officers.

The counterprotesters carried signs that read, "We Support Arizona" and "We Need More Ice At This Fiesta," an apparent reference to the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

Art Brown, 68, a member of the tea party movement, said illegal immigrants were undercutting his pool service business.

"They're not paying income tax. They're not paying business licenses, so it's an uneven playing field," the Redwood City resident said.

Gary Wade, 60, and his wife, Lynette, said they supported Arizona's law. The Oakland couple said illegal immigrants were using services that should be going to legal residents.

"If they want to ask me to show a driver's license, I'm fine with it," Lynette, referring to the Arizona law, said.

"A criminal would not want that," her husband, Gary, added.

Police were out in force, lining the route as the loud pro-immigration rights crowd chanted and carried signs reading "Full Rights For All Immigrants" and "Arizona's Racist Law, We Say No!"

Juan Carlos Esteban, 37, a member of the United Service Workers West union, said he felt the need to protest the Arizona legislation.

"That's a step backward for the whole nation," he said of the law. "It's a human rights issue."

Noe Madrigal, 32, came out with 15 friends. He said only two of them were in the country legally.

"That new law in Arizona is very unfair," Madrigal said. "That's racism."


Associated Press writer Sudhin Thanawala contributed to this report from San Francisco.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.

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