Monday, March 27, 2006
Two dozen immigrant hunger strikers took down their camp in front of the Federal Building this morning. They had fasted for a week to protest proposed "immigration reforms" that would make undocumented persons and those who assist them guilty of felonies. Around 11 am, supporters assembled to carry the message of "No on HR 4437" to Senator Diane Feinstein's local office.
"We're here and we are not going away."
The hunger strikers led the way. A couple needed wheelchairs after their self-imposed ordeal.
"We're standing up for our rights -- No on HR 4437." An extremely diverse crowd numbering some 2000 according to the SF Chronicle followed through narrow streets, eventually filling Market Street for a block.
The idea that the people who do the nation's dirty work are "criminals" is deeply offensive to people on the wrong end of it.
What can be wrong with simply hoping to find work?
After all, U.S. consumers like the fruits of cheap immigrant labor.
Not all workers without papers come from south of the U.S. border.
Marchers knew what they would consider "immigration reform."
Tireless young students led chants.
At Fourth Street and Market, the marchers were joined by several hundred others who had come over from the East Bay on their way to the finish of the Latino March for Peace. Fernando Suarez del Solar (father of a soldier killed in Iraq), Pablo Paredes (a Navy war resister), Camilo Mejia (a National Guard war resister), and Aidan Delgado (who served at Abu Ghraib before becoming a conscientious objector) had led a 240+ mile walk for peace from San Diego to raise Latino opposition to the war. The two streams combined for a rally.
Many, perhaps even half, of the marchers were very young. High schools students came from cities all around the Bay to take part. I was reminded of a recent article by local columnist C.W. Nevius bemoaning "the graying of anti-war activism." This protest was not even a bit gray. In fact, this protest was a pretty accurate picture of working class California -- young, Latino, Asian, Brown, Black, racially indeterminate.
"We are the new civil rights movement!" a speaker asserted. I can believe this. As in past civil rights movements, these "outsiders' have begun to refuse to let the "insiders" tell them who they are or who they might become. This is a force.