Apr 302006
Authors: Sara Crocker

Through the light rain they came outside. They poured into the streets, with police cars flanking the front and back of the group. Shutting down traffic on Laurel Street and College Avenue on Sunday afternoon, they marched in support of immigrant rights.

The group of about 500 chanted “Si se puede,” cheered and waved signs at the onlookers who came outside to watch.

“I think it’s cool,” said Dupree Branch, a Fort Collins resident and CSU alumnus surprised by the number of people marching. “I think America is a country of diversity. I’m all for it.”

The rally was organized to protest a federal proposal that would criminalize illegal immigrants and a state proposal that would no longer provide services to those who cannot prove their citizenship.

Jimena Pe/a, a member of Fuerza Latina, which helped organize the event, said they hope to show the community that it, too, is a community with immigrants.

“We wanted to come out of the shadows for once,” she said.

The group marched from the Oval to Old Town Square. On the way there were honks of support, but there were also yells to go home. At the corner of College Avenue and Shields Street, the marchers were met with a counter protest.

The group of more than 100 chanted, “USA,” and waved American flags as the marchers went past.

“There is no peace without truth and justice and law and order,” said Jack Huffman, a Loveland resident who participated in the counter protest. “I’m here just to ask people to obey the law.”

Huffman said he supports the proposal to legalize the nearly 12 million immigrants who are in the country illegally, but there needs to be more control of the borders after that.

Others said they wanted stronger reform than that, with tighter borders and removal of illegal aliens.

“They’re taking away from American heritage,” said Loveland resident Jennifer Archer. “They don’t come here to be Americans.”

But, neither the weather nor the counter-protest slowed down those rallying for immigrant rights. In Old Town Square speakers addressed the crowd in English and Spanish.

All the speakers encouraged a push for immigration reform. Booths were set up where supporters could make phone calls and sign letters to their representatives.

“We need to have comprehensive immigration reform,” said James Johnson, political director for the Service Employees’ International Union Local 105, during the rally. “Not a year from now, not three years from now; the time is now.”

Other speakers also noted the importance of workers’ rights and recognizing the universal right to provide for one’s self and family.

“International workers’ rights have no borders,” said Norberto Valdez, an anthropology professor.

Today, May Day or International Workers Day, celebrates gains made by the labor movements in the United States. Some groups, like Finding Racial and Economic Equality (FREE), are encouraging people not to attend work or school. They will be hosting a sit-in today on the Lory Student Center Plaza in support of all workers’ rights.

As the rally continued, speakers encouraged unity and commitment.

“Let us remember that we all seek acceptance and equality,” said Miguel Guardado, a senior finance and real estate major during the rally. “We are all just immigrants; that’s all we are.”

Sara Crocker can be reached at regional@collegian.com

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