4.10.2006

Madison Immigration Rally Up Close

I just got back from the immigration rally here in Madison - I couldn't post at the coffeeshop just off the capitol square in the thick of things (I forgot my camera, too!), but here's the comment I left here at the time:
I'm currently at Michaelangelo's at the top of State Street, live at the Madison immigration rally on the capitol square.

I'm trying to post; I just heard Bishop Morlino, Lautenschlager, Falk, Mayor Dave, and Colon speak.

A helicopter was stationary over the downtown for some time.

There are many American and Mexican flags. A big Che poster was on the steps as the Bishop spoke (?) and I've also seen the La Raza black eagle symbol. Most people are wearing white. There are many strollers in the streets; it's a wide sampling of generations.

A group of anti-illegal immigration folks was backed up against the veterans museum with signs. Many had shaved heads. One man's sign, who did not have a shaved head, said "Respect Our Laws and Border."

The police were keeping a close eye on the corner where they stood.
The rally was entirely peaceful from my perspective walking through the crowds. Many familiar campus activists were on hand; Bill from Madison, Ashok Kumar, Phil Ejercito, and the typical folks attempting to sell the Socialist Worker newspaper.

Several individuals with anti-Bush signs were mixed into the crowd as well, trying to piggyback on the good turnout that blanketed nearly a quarter of the capitol square. Also interesting to note were the flags besides the Mexican flag; a smattering of Argentine flags could be seen. A friend of mine from Chile was also present.

Here are a few of the quotes I picked up from the speakers (I'm not sure if they were originally in Spanish or English, frankly - only Bishop Morlino spoke entirely in Spanish, from what I caught):
AG Peg Lautenschlager: "It is my duty to speak out for civil rights."

Dane Co. Exec Falk: "You make Dane County a better place for all of us to live." "It is against the law to discriminate."

Mayor Dave: "We, as Americans, welcome immigrants to our country." "This should not be about building walls, but about building a bridge."

Dave Newby of WI AFL-CIO: "On behalf of the AFL-CIO, I'm here to say that the unions of America and Wisconsin stand with you."
I found the final quote the most interesting. It seems a little counterintuitive given the debate thus far across the country; perhaps they're seeking new membership as unions nationwide hemorrhage members.

It's interesting that the rhetoric of the day seemed to be addressing illegal aliens while skirting open talk of the term; overall, many of the speeches were caught in a blurring of the line between advocating illegal immigration and opposing specific parts of the Sensenbrenner reform bill.