Dear I walked this morning with thousands of Milwaukeeans, mostly Latinos, protesting the criminalization of immigrants. I believe the march was the largest in my own memory, perhaps, even larger than the vast throng that turned out in honor of Martin Luther King shortly after his assassination.
The massive turnout was mostly Latino represented by all the many Latin families: I could see Mexican, Puerto Rican, Honduran, Peruvian (these are my own flawed interpretations of facial features). There were some white folks scattered here and there; and when we spoke to some of the Latinos they thanked us (!) for joining the march. [I have waited patiently for this day to return from the days of the civil rights struggle in the 60s] One had diffi culty saying so in English; another marcher told me that her job was an interpreter (in both directions bilingual).
She helped me understand the slogan of the day, we can do it underscoring the charm and the confidence of the marchers. The atmosphere was both joyous and politically aware. Some of us knew we had done something that will forever mark Milwaukees future.
There were grandparents happy to be walking with their families. Babies in strollers; the smart parents gave them a plastic tent so they could witness the people around them without getting chilled. Teens indicated that families took this event seriously enough that this event is more important than one day in a classroom.
The Mariachi band was so cool. Every once in a while they would start playing and singing and our part of the march just stopped to listen, dance, and photograph.
I was positioned in the rear part of the march. When we got to the south end still left to get on the bridge.
It was impossible to see the beginning of the march, which had already turned right on Michigan Avenue.
At Zeidler Park the throng filled the park, the streets around the park, and Michigan up to 6th Street. As the rally progressed, the crowd compacted a bit as folks wanted to get close. I was able to get to the speakers stand only at the very end. The Zeidler podium is actually a bit lower than the railings around the podium, making it impossible to see the speakers unless one is right up close. The setting reminded me of photos of political rallies from the 19th century, which were held in the public square, with folks hanging on the railings to get close.
The speakers came from all segments of Milwaukee. I heard one claiming to speak for 250,000 Jewish folks. I picked up later that State Senator Lena Taylor [she won the seat once held by Gwen Moore] and other African Americans spoke in solidarity. I heard Jennifer Morales give a clear commitment from Milwaukee Public Schools to continue to serve all citizens of Milwaukee regardless of their immigration status. The Common Council sent what I believe was a unanimous endorsement of a statement in behalf of a sane immigrant policy and a firm rejection of Congressman Sensenbrenners HR4337 which would make felons of illegal immigrants and anyone who assisted them in any way (church, school, friend, family, medical clinic).
I came away with the hope that our brothers and sisters in the North Shore would find a moment in their hearts to consider what we did today, and send Mr. Sensenbrenner into a well deserved retirement.
I am proud to be a south-sider. Viva la Raza!
Riverwest Currents online edition – March, 2006