Scuffle breaks out at immigration rally
Arizona Daily Star
Apr. 10, 2006

Tucson, Arizona | Published:


A scuffle that broke out after counter-protestors torched a Mexican flag at Armory Park resulted in four or five people being taken into custody by Tucson police.
Police initially detained a young Hispanic woman in the wake of the flag burning and were escorting the woman to the Police Department’s downtown headquarters as a group of protestors followed.
The confrontation escalated when one man tried to break through a ring of officers surrounding the woman and he and several others were also detained.
About 11 people calling themselves the Border Guardians gathered at Armory park to burn a Mexican flag, a protest similar to one the group had Sunday in front of the Mexican consulate in Tucson.
The Border Guardians were surrounded by police as well as marchers, who locked their arms together with their backs to the counter-protesters and implored the massive crowd to ignore the burning.
An estimated 10,000 marchers had arrived at the Downtown park about noon Monday, where they were met by fewer than a dozen counter-protesters carrying anti-immigrant signs.
Specially trained crowd controllers wearing yellow armbands urged the crowd to remain peaceful, as it has been all morning.
More than 460 rows of marchers, each row at least 25 abreast, filled the streets on the route from a South Side church to Downtown, part of a nationwide protest against proposed legislation that would make it a felony for illegal immigrants to be in the United States.
Meanwhile, Tucson Unified School District reported 8,000 students, or about 13 percent of its student body, were absent Monday. That’s far more absences than usual, school officials said, but they couldn’t immediately say how many are typical on a Monday.
TUSD also counted at least 520 classroom teachers out Monday, but says it was able to cover most classes with substitute teachers.
The march began at the corner of South 12th Avenue and Ajo Way, at St. John’s Catholic Church. From there, marchers streamed down 12th to 10th Avenue and on to Armory Park. At the park, speakers took the stage, leading protestors in chants and song.
Jacob Ruiz, 32, A U.S.-born Hispanic who carried a Mexican and American flag sewn together back-to-back so both were displayed, said he was marching to show his support for immigrant rights. “They build America one house at a time, one wall at a time,” said the draftsman. “Their work is permanent and so should their residency."
Debbie McQueen stood across the street from Armory Park holding a sign that said “No to Amnesty.” Someone tossed a couple of water bottles at her and a companion, but neither was hit.
McQueen said, “I’m here as an American citizen, not to protest, but to have my opinion heard as well.”
Among the marchers was Miguel Santos Nunez, 39, from Mexico, who has lived in Tucson five years, working in construction carpentry, while his wife and three children still live in Mexico. His boss gave him the day off to march, he said, and he hopes that the marches "some way or another pressure the legislators."
Many of the signs protested the legislation, HR 4437.
Activist groups handed out American flags, white T-shirts and water bottles to the marchers, who hoisted signs with messages including "This is what America looks like,” “We are workers, not criminals” and "We march today, we vote tomorrow."
Some people carried Mexican flags, but those were far outnumbered by the Stars and Stripes on display. Two protesters had sewn an American flag and a Mexican flag together, which they carried as a banner. Mingled in with the crowd were some parents pushing toddlers in strollers.
Liz Macias, 29, who took the day off from her job at a real estate company, marched with her son Carlos Cuestas, 10, a Davis Bilingual Elementary chool student. She said she was marching because she wants her son “to understand what his family has gone through to better themselves.”
Her son said he felt missing a day of school was worthwhile because “what I learned today is that it’s right to fight for your rights — and what you can do about it and how.”
Also in the crowd was Matt Hogel, 30, a middle school teacher at the Arizona Schools for the Deaf and the Blind. The U.S. Navy veteran, who described himself as a Republican, said, “I wanted to show my support and appreciation for the immigant working community here in the country. Whatever they are getting out of our country, we are getting tenfold from them, and people need to understand that.”
At about 10th Street, north of Pueblo High School, a lone counter- protestor who declined to identify himself held up a sign reading “Illegal? No rights.”
As the marchers passed Pueblo High School, some students left campus to join them.
Other students were already taking part in the day’s protests. Shortly after 9 a.m., a group of 200 students walked off of the campus of Tucson High School near North Euclid Avenue and East Sixth Street, headed toward Downtown.
Carolina and Daniel Villascuesa accompanied their children, Joe and Antoinette Tafoya, both Tucson High students, to the federal courthouse. “I’ve always been a silent advocate,” said Carolina, but after talking to her children about immigration issues, she and her husband decided that they had to join them in the march.
Roughly 1,500 of Tucson High Magnet School’s 2,600 students were absent this morning and 200 more walked off campus.
At Davis Bilingual Elementary Magnet School, 500 W. St. Mary's Road, the entire faculty of 16 was absent. But with only 30 students at the school, substitutes were able to cover.
In neighboring Sunnyside Unified School District, teacher absences were down today, but more than 1,600 students were absent.
And at Amphitheater High School, things went on as normal with no usually high teacher or student absences reported.
Star reporters Brady McCombs, Tom Beal, Daniel Scarpinato and Lourdes Medrano contributed to this report.