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Thousands gather for immigration rights

May 1, 2009 6:44:56 AM PDT
Thousands of people are converged throughout the Southland for a series of May Day marches on Friday."We are immigrants, we are important," demonstrators chanted in Spanish. Undocumented workers and their supporters are demanding legalization for all, and they want immigration raids and deportation to end.

"The laws need to be changed for all the people because we are working and we are providing to the country a service," said Leo De La Luz, an undocumented worker.

Tens of thousands joined the rallies across the state, despite fears to hold large gatherings because of the swine flu.

"There's no such thing as an illegal alien. We're all here in this Earth. We're just trying to get along," said Marianna Mendoza, a demonstrator who said she came from Mexico 40 years ago.

Mendoza said she was not concerned about catching swine flu at a mass gathering. She's more concerned about showing support for her community.

"I'm here. I'm doing no harm to nobody. I work, I pay my taxes," she said.

While there is concern over the swine flu, public health officials did not advise Friday's events in Los Angeles be canceled.

"We are relieved, however, that health authorities in the county and in the state have gone public and said that there's no reason for concern. People should be able to come out and feel safe," said Juan Jose Gutierrez, a march organizer.

"We are going to send an effective and strong message to President Obama that we have had the ICE flu for 23 years, and we know that he and Congress have the right vaccine to take care of the problem," said march organizer Javier Rodriguez before the march in downtown Los Angeles.

LAPD authorities said the protests went peacefully. They did'nt want a repeat of the May Day melee two years ago, where LAPD officers dressed in riot gear fired rubber bullets after some demonstrators threw frozen water bottles at police.

Authorities said officers have received training in the past two years since the incident.

"No department should go through an incident like that without learning, so we've learned a lot from it," said LAPD Lt. John Romero.

The LAPD said communication was a big problem then, so officers will now be equipped with handheld translator devices called the Phraselator.

There were also protests in Orange County. One turned into a war of words between protesters and counter protesters outside the Mexican Consulate at the Plaza of the Flags in San Ana.

Protesters began exchanging words with counter protesters from the Minuteman Project who oppose amnesty for undocumented workers.

Sandra Lopez said she was walking out of the Mexican Consulate on business when counter protesters began yelling at her and told her to go back to Mexico.

"I'm a student working hard, and doing the best for this country," said Lopez. "I think it is wrong what they are doing right now."

Police officers said, while the protest got heated, it did not turn violent.


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