Crowd orderly; no problems reported
The Arizona Republic
Apr. 10, 2006

Judi Villa, William Hermann and Sarah Muench

Police reported no immediate problems as throngs of protestors converged at the Arizona State Fairgrounds and began their trek to the state Capitol.

The crowd reportedly was orderly, with no arrests made as people clogged the streets leading to the fairgrounds, at 19th Avenue and McDowell Road.

As they began marching toward the Capitol, the crowd was “moving faster than anticipated,” said Phoenix police Cmdr. Kim Humphrey. However, Humphrey said, there wasn’t a single arrest or problem at the fairgrounds.

“Our plan is working well,” he said.

Along the route, hecklers yelled at the marchers, and a few protestors tossed empty water bottles in response. Police reportedly quelled the situation without arrests.

Officials estimated the throng of people was about a mile long and 75,000 strong.

In Tucson, however, counter demonstrators burned two Mexican flag and a woman in the crowd responded by throwing water, further agitating the crowd there. Police reportedly detained a couple people and used pepper spray to regain control. The incident unfolded as the rally, which drew about 12,000 demonstrators to Armory Park in downtown Tucson, was disbursing.

In Phoenix, machers, many of whom brought their children, said the police presence made them feel safe.

“More police means more security,” said Ismael Rodriguez, 25, of Chandler.

Beginning several hours before the march, a continuous stream of demonstrators flowed into the fairgrounds from every direction.

Most of the people were wearing white. Many waved American flags.

Roads were gridlocked and police said protestors were parking in neighborhoods and walking long distances to the fairgrounds.

The first wave of marchers, believed to be students, reached Phoenix’s City Hall at Third Avenue and Washington Street at about 1:10 p.m. Other people, who were wearing white shirts and appeared to be in support of the protestors, also were gathering near City Hall.

The crowd was escorted by motorcycle officers, with other officers driving alongside them.

At the fairgrounds, officers from the state Department of Public Safety directed traffic. Motorcycle officers were on the outskirts of the crowd, and police helicopters flew overhead.

Some people reported officers with binoculars keeping watch from the rooftops of buildings at the fairgrounds.

Inside the fairgrounds, vendors hawked T-shirts, saying “Somos Americanos,” meaning “We are Americans,” and “Estamos Unidos” – “We are united.” Jose Molina, 16, who came to the rally with his family wore a shirt proclaiming “Jesus was an immigrant too.”

“He immigrated just like us from part of Jerusalem,” said Molina, whose family is from Chihuahua, Mexico. “I want my people to be citizens.”

Fire officials said paramedics had treated two people for minor medical problems.

The marchers at the fairground included Augustín Trujio, 28, from Sinaloa, Mexico, his wife and child.

“Everyone has the same rights as everyone else,” Trujio said. “Everyone here are immigrants. I have family here, and I have family there, and it’s beneficial to this country that immigrants have their rights.”

Ella Herrington, 26, and her sister, Margaret Lewis, 28, came out to show their support for the marchers even though the couple are White.

“Jesus said if you welcome a stranger you welcome Him,” Herrington said, adding, “We can identify because we are human too. If your family can’t eat, what are you going to do?”

“It’s not just Hispanic people here,” Lewis said. “We’re all people.”

“I understand a country needs to secure its borders,” Herrington said, “but I lean towards an open border, especially when we are talking about basic needs of people.”

Several streets and freeway onramps remain closed. But, “as the crowd passes, we’re going to do our best to get streets open as quickly as possible,” Humphrey said.

The second wave of protestors reached Phoenix City Hall at 1:30 p.m.

Diana Herrera and her husband Mario pulled a wagon with their daughter, April,7, and two other girls.

“We’re here wanting equality for everyone,” Herrera said. “The majority of people who come here come here to work, not to be criminals.”

“This is a free country,” said Mario Cardenas, 35, of Mesa. “We’re all equal, and I want amnesty.”

Said Carlos Najera, 18, an illegal immigrant who attends Glendale High School: “I want to be legal. Who doesn’t?”

Includes information from Republic reporter Susan Carroll.