by Jim Nintzel
UA journalism student and former TW intern Hank Stephenson delivers a dispatch from yesterday's May Day protest downtown:
Thousands of people turned out for a protest in Armory Park yesterday to denounce Arizona SB1070, which Gov. Brewer signed into law more than a week ago.
Addressing the crowd, politicians and activists—ranging from Congressman Raul Grijalva to members of the Capitol Nine, who were arrested for chaining themselves to the Arizona Capitol building in protest—called for a repeal of the law before it becomes effective in roughly 90 days.
Grijalva told the tightly packed crowd that the law “is an affront to any value and principal of this nation.”
“It violates civil rights,” he continued. “It creates a second-class status for people under the law based on race. It violates the constitution.”
Before leaving the stage, Grijalva gave a shout-out to a half dozen cities that have answered his call for an economic boycott of Arizona and repeated his support for the boycott
afterwards, saying it would have happened regardless of his support.
“Once Brewer signed (the bill) and the wing nuts in House and Senate passed it, they set this state in a deeper economic hole than we were before,” he said.
The protestors marched down South Sixth Ave., with the procession taking about an hour to pass. They were armed with chants of “Si Se Puede,” t-shirts reading “I May Be Illegal,” and signs depicting Gov. Brewer with a swastika armband and a Hitler mustache.
The long-scheduled May 1 rally was Pima County’s largest protest of the bill, drawing an estimated 7,000 people.
The protesters here were joined by tens of thousands of others in cities across America protesting the Arizona law and advocating federal immigration reform.
A few dozen bill supporters held a counter protest across the street, and police presence was relatively low compared to the force seen recently at the Capitol.
Singer Linda Ronstadt spoke outside the capitol this week and again took the stage in Armory Park Saturday, bashing the state Legislature for passing the bill and citing the economic impact the law has already had on the state.
“Because of this law, the University of Arizona has had students withdraw,” she said. “Because of this law, hotels and convention centers are losing business left and right…. Because of this law, Arizona is having an international reputation as becoming a fascist police state.”
Claudia White and a few dozen others stood across the street, separated by police, and holding their own signs in support of the bill.
White, the president of a group called Arizonans for Immigration Control and a naturalized Mexican-born citizen, said she trusts local police to not violate civil rights when enforcing the provisions of SB1070, and says if a few do, there are laws to punish them, too.
She said the Federal government has the responsibility to enforce immigration laws, and if they refuse, Arizona has a right to create laws like SB1070 to protect citizens from criminals.
“Arizona did what it had to do,” she said. “I’m not concerned about SB1070, it merely allows police to take one extra little step. We need to secure our borders and the feds have not been up to it—in both administrations.”
Democratic State Representative Daniel Patterson, who represents downtown and southeast Tucson, said that even in his Democratic-leaning district, where the protest was held, public opinion of the law is split down the middle.
“People are very frustrated,” he said. “And so am I, about the lack of action from the feds to solve this.”
Grijalva echoed the call for Congress to take up immigration and said that while Congress works on a comprehensive immigration reform plan, like the bill recently introduced in the Senate, the fight to repeal Arizona’s law will be waged in the courts and in the upcoming election.
“When we exercise our fundamental right to vote,” he said, “we are going to remember those people that were with us—and we are certainly going to remembers those people that were not.”