Thousands march in US May Day immigration protests
LOS ANGELES :
Tens of thousands of protesters marched through Los Angeles on Saturday in a peaceful May Day rally against a tough new immigration law in Arizona that has triggered a nationwide outcry.
An estimated 60,000 marchers turned downtown Los Angeles into a sea of red, white and blue, waving Stars and Stripes flags and demanding the repeal of the Arizona legislation and calling for federal immigration reform.
A Los Angeles fire department official put the crowd at 60,000 while police declined to give an official estimate.
A police spokeswoman said the march had gone smoothly, with only one arrest, for vandalism as the carnival-like rally wound up at around 2.30pm.
The protest was one of more than 70 held across the United States as Hispanic organizations mobilized against Arizona's law.
Participants in Los Angeles were encouraged to wave the American stars and stripes rather than flags from their countries of origin, in an effort to emphasize their loyalty to the United States.
"I've been here since I was three," said Jose Luis, a Los Angeles teenager wearing an American flag across his shoulders.
Although he had brandished a Mexican flag in the past, he said he now realized "it's about supporting this country."
A truck displayed a large sign appealing for support from President Barack Obama's administration. "Obama hear us," the sign read. "We will die in the struggle."
Pop star Gloria Estefan and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa were among speakers who addressed marchers. "We need to write laws that appeal to our better angels," Villaraigosa told the crowd.
Other marchers waved banners with slogans such as "Shame On Arizona," and "All Men Are Created Equal."
In Washington meanwhile, Democratic lawmaker Luis Gutierrez of Illinois was arrested during a rally outside the White House, CNN reported. Gutierrez was among a group of protesters detained by police after refusing to move.
The Arizona law makes it a state crime to lack proper immigration papers and requires police to determine whether people are in the country illegally.
Civil rights activists say the move will lead to racial profiling but state officials have repeatedly emphasized that it expressly forbids law enforcement officers from stopping someone on the basis of their ethnicity.
Arizona Governor Jan Brewer says the law, which has attracted significant support according to recent polls, is needed to secure the state's porous border, one of the main entry points for illegal aliens in the US.
Arizona legislators tweaked the wording of the bill on Thursday in what Brewer said was an effort to make it clear that racial profiling was illegal.
"These new amendments make it crystal clear and undeniable that racial profiling is illegal and will not be tolerated in Arizona," Brewer said.
However US secretary of state Hillary Clinton said in an interview that racial profiling was inevitable.
"I don't think there's any doubt about that," Clinton said. "Because clearly... as I understand the way the law is being explained, if you're a legal resident, you still have to carry papers.
"Well, how is a law enforcement official supposed to know?"
Arizona's immigration law has led to calls for an economic boycott of the border state by cities and local government officials across the country.
Meanwhile, Major League Baseball chiefs were urged on Friday to strip Arizona of the 2011 All-Star game in a concerted protest.
San Francisco city officials called on MLB commissioner Bud Selig to move next year's mid-season extravaganza to a different state.
The Major League Baseball Players Association said Arizona's legislation could have a "negative impact on hundreds of Major League players who are citizens of countries other than the United States."