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"The people are in the streets demanding justice"
Fight for immigrant rights

October 1, 2004 | Page 4

Dear Socialist Worker,
Over the past month, protests for immigrant rights in the San Francisco Bay Area have demonstrated the success of grassroots organizing of the immigrant community. From day laborers to the Women's Collective of La Raza Centro Legal to members of several unions, various organizations have mobilized a significant presence in San Francisco.

Most recently, a demonstration was held to condemn Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE, formerly the INS) raids and commemorate migrants who have died crossing the border. The demo was organized by the coalition Deporten A La Migra and was attended by dozens of migrant families and their supporters, loudly chanting as they marched in a neighborhood largely composed of Latino immigrants.

At one point, someone in hiding threw eggs at protesters, reinforcing the importance of creating a strong, active community that can fight back against racism and bigotry. But the overwhelming sentiment of support was clear among neighbors cheering from windows and cars beeping horns.

"It is important for immigrant communities to resist INS oppression at a local level, to create an environment that will make it almost impossible for them to conduct enforcement in our community," commented Renee Saucedo, Green candidate for supervisor and the director of the Day Labor Program. "And this is a part of that."

Earlier in the month, a protest demanding drivers' licenses for the undocumented took place at the State Building. Various day laborers, janitors from the Service Employees International Union and women from the collective rallied, demanding that a bill currently in the Senate be amended so that immigration status would not be listed on licenses.

They proceeded to sit on the floor inside the State Building, chanting, until representatives of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger agreed to meet them. The spirit of these and other protests has been one of activism and unity. No presidential candidate has been endorsed. Instead, the emphasis is on community activity.

While the Day Laborers and Women's Collective are still modest in size, they are demonstrating great potential in their organization and activity. The most popular chant at the demonstrations sums up the sentiment: "Las calles son del pueblo. El pueblo, dónde está? El pueblo está en la calle, exigiendo libertad!" (The streets belong to the people. Where are the people? The people are in the streets, demanding liberty!)
Jess Kochick, San Francisco

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