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Plans for Valley immigration march taking shape

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Posted: Saturday, April 8, 2006 6:13 am

Here’s the vision: March 100,000 protesters from the State Fairground to the state Capitol as part of a nationwide campaign against what they consider unjust immigration reform. Everything else is details.

“We have a saying in Spanish: Don’t bet on the tiger’s lottery, because you might win it. And we’re proudly winning the tiger’s lottery here,” said Elias Bermudez, one of the event’s organizers.

Organizers, city leaders, law enforcement officials and prospective marchers plan to spend the weekend working on details of the march, which is projected to coincide with similar events across the country on Monday. Their efforts were complicated by the prospect of counter-protests.

Organizers expected to spend as much as $250,000 on water, portable restrooms, stages, sound systems and other expenses, Bermudez said.

As many as 700 volunteers are working on different aspects of the demonstration, which will feature musical performances at the starting point and political speeches at its conclusion.

Organizers are inviting students, migrant workers, political figures and civil rights leaders to address the crowds.

With better preparation and advance notice through English media, activists and officials alike hope to avoid the traffic gridlock caused by the 20,000-person march in Phoenix on March 24.

“We have now been able to work with all the different organizers,” said Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon. “The city’s first priority — and only priority — is to maintain the public’s safety. And we’ll be prepared.”

However, at least one group of students planned to march on their own from Steele Indian School Park on Central Avenue to the Capitol, Bermudez said. Organizers tried unsuccessfully to persuade them to join the main group.

Unlike last month’s march on North 24th Street, this demonstration has given plenty of advance notice, which benefits motorists and potential counter-demonstrators. Phoenix police are experienced at keeping order at big events such as the Fiesta Bowl and St. Patrick’s Day parades, Gordon said.

“Everyone has the right to assemble, everybody has the right to protest, (but) those rights come with responsibilities and obligations. The police will be there to ensure those obligations and responsibilities are followed,” he said.

Officers will be stationed along the route to maintain order. Police in other cities will be on standby.

Gordon said, “We need respectful debate. We need peaceful debate. We need parties to acknowledge that there will be strong disagreement but that this country needs to move forward and not let the rhetoric tear us apart.”

Radio Campesina has been instrumental in publicizing the march, with daily public service announcements and talk shows. The radio station, KNAI (88.3 FM), was founded by Cesar Chavez to help organize migrant farm workers and is raising money to help pay for the march.

Supporters delivered bottled water and cash donations Friday to Radio Campesina workers parked under a canopy outside the station’s west Phoenix headquarters.

“Cesar Chavez wanted the radio station to be the voice of the people,” said public relations director Maria Barquin, who hosts a midafternoon show with Hispanic activist Alfredo Gutierrez. “We want Radio Campesina to be the voice of the march.”

March organizers and public school officials have urged school-age children to join the march after school hours.

Mesa Unified School District spokeswoman Kathy Bareiss said, “Our message has been consistent throughout these last couple of weeks as this issue has come to the forefront. Students need to stay in school.”

In consideration of the scattered student walkouts at some schools last month, officials at Mesa and other large East Valley districts have decided not to lock down schools.

“We’re not going to be at the doors, stopping people from leaving or require them to stay,” said Keith Sterling, spokesman for the Scottsdale Unified School District. “They have their rights. We just hope they stay in school.”

But students who do not show up at school and don’t have their parents’ backing will have an unexcused absence.

And at Tempe Union High School District schools, students who leave campus and ignore security guards who ask them to stay will be written up for insubordination as well, district spokeswoman Linda Littell said.

In a related matter, Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard and U.S. Attorney Paul Charlton sent a letter to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin Martin on Friday to call his attention to remarks made by KFYI (550 AM) radio host Brian James last month.

According to a transcript of the broadcast, during one segment of his show, James suggested a solution to the immigration problem was to randomly pick one night a week to “kill anyone coming across the border.”

“This type of threatening and inciting speech is dangerous and totally irresponsible for anyone, particularly a licensed body using the public airways,” Goddard and Charlton wrote in their letter. “We are deeply concerned that, given the intensifying conflict over immigration in Arizona, this speech may lead to violence.”

KFYI executives could not be reached for comment.

Immigration march

When: 11 a.m. to early evening Monday

Where: Arizona State Fairground to the Arizona State Capitol

Projected attendance: As many as 100,000

Schedule: Music at the fairground from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.; march to the Capitol from 1 to about 4 p.m.; speeches at the Capitol starting at 4 to 5 p.m.; return to the fairground at 5 or 6 p.m.

Route from the fairground to the Capitol: Southeast on Grand Avenue, east on Van Buren Street, south on Third Avenue, west on Washington Street

Route from the Capitol to the Fairground: West on Adams Street; north on 19th Avenue

Recommended attire: White, in a show of peace

Recommended banner: U.S. flags, in a show of respect to the United States

Sources: Inmigrantes Sin Fronteras and the Services Employees International Union

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