Denver advocates holding immigration rally
DENVER – Thousands protested Arizona’s strict new anti-illegal immigration law on Saturday, waving signs that read “We Are Not Illegal” and “We Are America.” Others marched near Colorado’s Capitol to the sound of banging drums and maracas.
One group marched through Denver’s 16th Street Mall with police escorts on motorcycles. About 250 people were involved in a march from the Capitol through downtown, while others went to a park nearby.
The Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition estimated their number at the park to be about 3,000. A crowd estimate from police was not immediately available. “The Arizona law woke up some folks,” said CIRC spokeswoman Chandra Russo.
The marchers join others around the country holding annual rallies calling for an overhaul of the country’s immigration laws.
This year’s rallies come a week after Arizona signed one of the strictest immigration laws in the country. It calls for police officers to question people about their immigration status if there is reason to suspect they’re in the country illegally.
“I think it’s a new form of racism,” said Jared Hodison, a 29-year-old Native American Navajo participating in the march for personal reasons and for a class he’s taking at the Denver’s Metropolitan State College of Denver.
Hodison said he thinks the border is “manmade” and added,” “I’m totally against immigration laws unless they support equality for all.”
Juan Haro, an 80-year-old born and raised in Denver, said his family is originally from Mexico and he thinks Arizona’s new law is targeting Mexicans specifically. “This country doesn’t seem to be anti-immigrant. It seems to be anti-Mexican,” he said.
The downtown Denver marchers were led by a half dozen people dressed in Aztec garb, with feathered headdresses and bells tied to their ankles. Before the march, they burned copal, a fragrant smoke that they used to bless people and the signs they carried. The mood became festive as a live band started playing and people handed out water bottles to rally participants.
At a park less than a mile away, thousands of other marchers gathered, with some waving U.S. flags and chanting, “U.S.A.”
“We love America. We come to America because it’s the land of opportunity,” said Augustin Enriquez, a Mexican from the border state of Chihuahua who describes himself as “100 percent undocumented.”
Theresa Quinn, a Chicago resident in Denver for a teacher’s conference, participated in the march because she said she is a “citizen who cares about my fellow humans.”
“My family came a couple of generations back. As far as I know, none of them were considered illegal,” said Quinn, whose ancestors are Irish and German.