Thousands Attend Pro-Immigration Rallies in Downtown LA

Thousands of pro-immigration activists marched and rallied in downtown Los Angeles on Friday in what has become an annual event to seek immigration reform.

Participants want amnesty for illegal immigrants and an end to raids on businesses that employ undocumented workers, among other changes.

"It's just the right thing to do," said a 23-year-old senior at Cal Poly Pomona who declined to give her name.

Carrying a "Pass the DREAM Act" sign, she said she would ideally like to see Friday's march prompt the federal government to grant "a huge amnesty" and reform immigration policies.

"It's great to see people coming out and taking a stand against injustice," she said.

Jorge Alas, 25, of Los Angeles, was born in the United States but has family back in El Salvador who he said would like to move here, if it were possible.

"Everyone thinks they can tell us that we're not allowed to be in the U.S.," he said, calling for what he described as fairer immigration policies.


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Protesters carried signs reading "Stop the Raids, Stop ICE," and "What is a citizen?" chanted "escucha (listen) Obama" and "si se puede" (yes we can) as they marched by City Hall.

The smell of grilled food hung over the crowd as participants were accompanied. by vendors pushing heated cooking carts ladened with sizzling hot dogs and vegetables.

For all its furor, this year's march seemed smaller than last year's, said Rafael Martinez, 23, of South Los Angeles, who attended both.

"I think people are still trying to support our rights, though," he said.

Martinez said that he was not concerned about catching swine flu in the sometimes tightly packed crowd.

"It still hasn't been in LA," he noted.

At least six marches occurred in the area over the course of the day, in part because the various pro-immigration groups could not all agree on the same message or theme.

The various processions snarled downtown traffic, but as of 3 p.m. no one had been arrested and police had not used force of any kind, said Los Angeles police Lt. John Romero.

"It's been very peaceful," he said. "Everybody's been great."

That was in stark contrast to two years ago, when police roughed up demonstrators at the end of a mass rally in MacArthur Park, which came to be known as the May Day Melee and resulted in lawsuits and a shakeup in the elite crowd control unit of the police department.

Dozens of police patrolled the street alongside the protesters, on bicycles, on foot and in patrol cars, while police helicopters circled overhead.

Romero declined to disclose exactly how many officers were on the scene, simply saying, "We have no shortage of officers."

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