Tuesday, March 28, 2006

25,000 Students Walk Out in Los Angeles

Huffington Post: Walkout!

On Monday, thousands of Latino high school students walked out of their classrooms en masse and took to the streets of cities from Detroit to Dallas to Los Angeles to protest the draconian, anti-immigrant "Sensenbrenner bill" (aka. HR 4437). Walkouts in Los Angeles spread east into the Inland Empire and south to Santa Ana, where police provoked a brief scuffle by wading into the protest with full riot gear and batons drawn. 25,000 students from the Los Angeles Unified School District are estimated to have participated in the otherwise peaceful demonstrations.

As was the case during Sunday's mass mobilization, the walkouts' most dramatic moment arrived at the city's main artery: the 101 freeway. There, according to an eyewitness I spoke to last night, 200 jubilant, flag-waving students paraded down the center lane while a cavalcade of LAPD motorcycle cops followed closely behind, ensuring that the backed-up traffic didn't plow them over (sorry, no pictures for now). While the walkouts were planned well in advance, the idea of taking to the freeway seemed to have been devised organically and disseminated through word-of-mouth, text messages and Myspace.

Many people I talked with around the city yesterday questioned whether Edward James Olmos' newly released documentary about mass Chicano student protests against discriminatory educational policies in 1968 East L.A. high schools, "Walkout," influenced yesterday's events. In an interview yesterday with Hoy, an L.A.-based Spanish language paper, Olmos refuted this idea by claiming the conditions that precipitated the protests against HR 4437 were drastically different than those that animated Chicano life in 1968. However, a student demonstrator from Manual Arts told Hoy, "Before I saw the movie, I didn't think we could do something like that. I didn't understand how you could affect change. But after I saw it, I felt in my heart that I could do something."


Though the mobilizations are over
, their effect will be felt for generations. Under mounting pressure, the Senate Judiciary Committe overwhelmingly approved a bill providing a path to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants -- a humiliating blow to Majority Leader Bill Frist and the reactionary forces pulling his strings. A new movement has been galvanized which will not only transform the face of American politics, it will challenge the country to, as one dreamer once put it, rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed.

I'm not sure the mobilizations are over. Protest is exhilarating. Coverage is cool, too. Maybe these kids will take on the Iraq War next?

Democracy Now: Between 500,000 and 2 Million Protest Immigration Bill in LA

Other large immigrant-led protests occurred throughout the country. 50,000 people took to the streets in Denver. 20,000 rallied in Phoenix in what may have been the city’s largest protest ever. In Atlanta, 70,000 immigrant workers took part in a work stoppage on Friday. Other protests occurred in New York, Charlotte, Dallas and Sacramento.

Senators Back Guest Workers
Panel's Measure Sides With Bush

A key Senate panel broke with the House's get-tough approach to illegal immigration yesterday and sent to the floor a broad revision of the nation's immigration laws that would provide lawful employment to millions of undocumented workers while offering work visas to hundreds of thousands of new immigrants every year.

With bipartisan support, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 12 to 6 to side with President Bush's general approach to an immigration issue that is dividing the country, fracturing the Republican Party and ripening into one of the biggest political debates of this election year. Conservatives have loudly demanded that the government tighten control of U.S. borders and begin deporting illegal immigrants. But in recent weeks, the immigrant community has risen up in protest, marching by the hundreds of thousands to denounce what they see as draconian measures under consideration in Washington.

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