LA Rebellion
A Part of the Story

March 25 Begins, Again

“¡Viva Mexico!” The crowd answered, “¡Arriba!” “¡Viva America!” A bit less enthusiasm, but still, “¡Arriba!” Finally, with a grin in her voice, the bullhorner called out, “¡Viva George Bush!” A startled silence, then giggles. The photo ops finished, it was down to the real business. The assembly retraced its steps back to the plaza on the east side of the building.

We passed an ICE agent standing on the steps. When someone tried to hand him a sign that read, “Alto a al Deportación! No, a las Redadas!”, he declined but volunteered, “I would, but I’m working.” He posed for photographers as a protestor held the sign in front of him. It was an odd and thoughtful encounter.

As we marched, the minutemen were walking up Broadway for an anti-migrant rally on the steps of City Hall with nearly two hundred uniformed cops to protect them, but the LAPD left the anti-deportation protestors on their own, in spite of the presence of cazamigrantes just a few blocks away.

The marchers were converging on the plaza. Overhead, faces appeared in the narrow slits of windows, story after story, a massive prison in the heart of Los Angeles. Story after story of prisoners, prisoners’ stories. Could they hear the supporters chanting below? Could they hear the calls for amnesty and an end to raids? Were they peering down at the crowd looking for friends, spouses, children? If you’ve ever held vigil outside a jail for an arrested comrade, the questions were the same.

Today’s organizers had one message: the people must defend themselves. As one told me, “The people have to rise up. The Movements have to be united. We have to educate the community.”

Jesse, a leader in the March 25 Coalition, promised, “We’ll be back, on April 30, Children’s Day, and hopefully we can encircle the building then. We’ve been marching here from the little church in La Placita every Wednesday at 6:00 p.m. to stop the raids.”

He went on, “It’s George Bush who can put a stop to these raids. The Gutierrez [immigration reform] bill is not palatable for the Movement. Universal, unconditional amnesty. We’ll never again support a guest worker program.” He explained, “The Gutierrez bill will allow only 400,000 visas, less than half the number of workers of the Kennedy-McCain bill [S. 2611, 2006]. The government knows they need three times what they’re proposing. Fruit will rot on the trees, service jobs will go unfilled. The Republicans who supported S. 2611 know the community better than Gutierrez. Braceros are still struggling for money owed them. No way will we support another guest worker program.”

He concluded, “The Latino Caucus needs to stop pandering to the Republicans.”

Later, Carlos, also from the March 25 Coalition clarified, “The division [the Latino supporters of the Gutierrez bill] isn’t the Movement. It was created by the media. We are working on educating the people, to understand their human rights. The next step is emails and phone calls to our representatives, and we can do it.”

The efforts to bring the community together seemed to be working, and the message was heard. One protestor, when asked why she was here today, said, “I’ve been hearing about the raids. We’ve got to get the community together. This is a step to getting people together.”

The United Teachers of Los Angeles speaker was calling out, “Shame on the U.S. government for treating us like common criminals! Shame on you! for wanting us to turn in our children. Shame on you! for targeting the most vulnerable in our society.”

Another leader, Javier, laid out the path to May 1. “We have five weeks to May 1. We have fifteen states organized and networked. We’ve been in the media all this week. This is a step to May 1, and pressure from May 1 will wrest more concessions from the ruling class, from the political class. We will stop the guest worker program, the border wall, and militarization of the border.”

Maybe Father Luis Angel Nieto of East Los Angeles’s Resurrection Church said what everybody was feeling, as we lingered under the prisoners’ cells. Through a passing translator he told me, “I’m here because I believe immigration reform is necessary. I believe it in my heart and my mind and my soul.”

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