May 11, 2005
Hispanics made their economic clout known Tuesday by walking out of jobs and stores and protesting throughout the Valley.
A group of about 40 electricians, landscapers, tile workers, equipment drivers, housekeepers and other Hispanic workers, some here legally and others not, chanted English slogans while holding Spanish language fliers and signs at the corner of Main Street and Alma School Road.
"Help us! No work! No shopping! Today is a day off for Latinos!" they called to drivers who appeared to be Hispanic.
Some of the group’s leaders encouraged them to withdraw from economic activity Tuesday to prove Hispanics’ clout and protest the Legislature’s attempt to pass antiimmigrant measures.
Demonstrators from around the Valley headed to the state Capitol in Phoenix, where nearly 1,000 Hispanics marched by late afternoon.
Mesa resident Magdalena Schwartz of Latino Community Services said other demonstrations were staged at Fiesta Mall and in front of the Wal-Mart Supercenter at Stapley and Baseline roads.
The Chilean immigrant said it’s unfair to bar illegal immigrants from education and other benefits of living in Arizona.
"They pay taxes, they support the economy, a lot of illegal people support the businesses here," she said. "We want to show Arizona that these are very, very strong people just coming here to work and support the economy."
Rep. Russell Pearce, RMesa, was singled out by some boycott supporters for his sponsorship or support of anti-immigrant legislation.
Tuesday, he said illegal immigrants incur huge costs to justice, health, school and other systems.
"This is not a victimless crime," he said. "There is huge damage to America."
One of the boycott organizers, Elias Bermudez, said they will be calling for another economic stoppage July 2-4.
"We’re not going to be able to get our message across until they really understand that we are an economic power," he said.
Ramon Gastelum said he was losing some money by shutting down his Mesa tile store in order to demonstrate at Alma School and Main.
"I don’t care. I need to support them today, because tomorrow could be too late," he said.
Ernie Rascon, one of the owners of a Mercado Y Carniceria shop at Gilbert and Broadway roads in Mesa, said all his employees showed up Tuesday and traffic was above average, possibly because Mother’s Day was being observed in Mexico.
"Since we’re Hispanic, I guess they’re coming over here," he said.