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Peaceful day of immigration rights

Eight-month-old Jahayra Maldonado from Chiapas Mexico waves a flag during the May Day Rally. <span class=meta>(Hector Mata)</span>
May 2, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
Mayor Antonio Villagaraigosa and LAPD Police Chief William Bratton held a news conference Friday to review May Day.It was a peaceful day of immigration rights marches, a big change from a year ago.

Click here for a slideshow of the May Day rally, or roll your mouse over the Eyewitness News Story Window at the top of this page to watch Melissa MacBride's report.

The turnout was lower than anticipated. Organizers said the crowd was about 25,000 people, but the LAPD estimates it at about 9,000. Organizers had expected closer to 100,000 people at the rally.

"I was surprised. I thought there was gonna be more but it turned out to be good, the small group that was here, it turned out to be very nice," said marcher Jessica De La Cruz.

Villaraigosa said he wouldn't speculate on why fewer people came out this year, but the group Latino Movement U.S.A. said there were several factors.

Some people didn't want to miss work, some were afraid to come out of the shadows because of recent immigration raids. The group says there was a lack of promotion by Spanish media, and also, there was a fear in the community of a repeat of last year's violence with police.

The LAPD said it spent the last year trying to right the wrongs of 26 officers who fired rubber bullets at the crowd last year.

But this year, there were no police in riot gear clashing with agitators in the crowd -- no rubber bullets pelting people as they tried to get out of the way.

"We crashed and burned. It was an embarrassment for me as chief, a severe embarrassment for the department and for the city. We committed to the mayor that we would effectively rebuild, and yesterday, the Phoenix took off, and took off quite successfully," Bratton said at the news conference. Hundreds of police officers lined the routes leading to MacArthur Park. The LAPD used a new system to communicate in multiple languages.

Marchers say they feel they got their point across, calling for comprehensive immigration reform, and they were pleased with how the LAPD handled the crowd.

"So far, I feel like the police are on their best behavior, and generally, as usual, it's been a really good energy, like most marches are in Los Angeles," said participant Hillary Stevenson at Thursday's march.

Police said there were only two people arrested Thursday, one for narcotics and the other for fighting -- a big change from last year.

 

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