Between 40,000 and 60,000 people came out Saturday to downtown Los Angeles for the May Day immigration march and to protest a controversial new Arizona law that requires local police to enforce federal immigration law.
Arizona's new immigration law, and the political movement behind it, were targeted by speakers addressing the crowd from the City Hall steps.
"Time after time the oppressors went too far," declared Maria Elena Durazo, comparing her side's cause to that of the antislavery movement. The executive secretary of the L.A. County Federation of Labor said Mexican- Americans were the direct target of conservatives who claim God is on their side.
"If you speak Spanish, you are suspect," she said. "If you eat Menudo on Sunday, you will be deported on Monday."
Congresswoman Judy Chu, D-El Monte, said she was inspired by the sight of "100,000 people all raising their voices to say 'we want comprehensive immigration reform and we want it now.'" Chu is a co-sponsor of an immigration bill sponsored by Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Illinois, that is favored by most Latino immigration acitivists.
Saturday’s May Day rally in downtown L.A. was the third that Ariadna Camacho, 17, and her sister Rosa Romano, 11, had attended in the past four years. They came with a group of nearly 100 people from Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Santa Clarita.
“There was four bus-loads of us,” said Camacho.
The children of Mexican immigrant parents, Camacho said her parents often remind them of how much better life is living in America. She said her parents left Mexico to escape a life of poverty and a corrupt government.
“In America we have more rights and freedoms,” Camacho said. “But, some laws discriminate and are trying to take our rights away.”
One of five siblings, she said her father makes good money detailing cars that appear in television commercials. Her mother works in a restaurant.
Camacho said she is planning on following her older sister to college and become a nurse. She said if she wasn’t at the rally she would be doing something with her church.
Among Saturday's demonstrators was Father Geoffrey Farrow.
Speaking out on behalf of people is nothing new to Farrow. An ordained priest since 1985, he was suspended from the priesthood in October 2008 after he issued a public statement against Proposition 8, the same-sex marriage law.
“I knew it was going to happen,” Farrow said.
He said that the Arizona law governor Jan Brewer signed also stripped the domestic partnership rights away from same-sex couples and denied benefits to their kids.
Farrow called the Arizona law unjust, and added “if you want to stop immigration, have the IRS seize the assets of businesses. It’s a one-sided law.”
Farrow said he is currently working in L.A. on behalf of the GLBT community.
Some people had lined up two hours before the march. A stream of people made their way downtown, many coming through feeder streets around Broadway and Temple Street, others getting off of buses and filing out of subway tunnels.
Police said there were no arrests nor any reports of injuries. Sgt. Frank Preciado, a Los Angeles Police Department spokesman, said the crowd was "very orderly" all morning.
It was a carnival-like atmosphere.
Horns blew. American flags waved.
Signs read, "Obama what happened to your promise?"
Crowds booed at a sign of Obama with a Hitler mustache.
Some people wore a bar code saying, "100 percent immigrant."
People could get text message alerts that warned to wear sunscreen and to drink lots of water. The system helped reunite families with lost children.
A diverse group of people, young and old alike, gathered. Many volunteered to help get people information about how to become United States citizens and what their rights are.
Jose Molina, 41, originally from Honduras, said he was at the rally because he's a great believer of MLK philosophy.
"Everyone is created equal so I'm really happy that I'm here," he said.
Vendors did a brisk business in U.S. flags and patriotic T-shirts.
"I've been here (in the U.S.) since I was three," said Jose Luis, a Los Angeles teenager standing on a corner with his friend, both wearing American flags like superhero capes. Luis said in years past his friend had marched in similar rallies waving a Mexican flag, but "I realize it's about supporting this country.
"We still have love for (Mexico), but we're in L.A. now," he said.
Demonstrators turned out at rallies across the country.
An organizer of one rally in New York City says anger over the Arizona law is what brought more than 5,000 people to Manhattan's Foley Square.
NPR's Carrie Kahn and KPCC Wire Services contributed to this story.