In what organizers called a “new beginning” for Latino civil rights in the United States, thousands of Latinos marched and rallied Saturday to press their demand that they be considered equal partners in America.
“The Latino community has contributed to the well being of the United States,” Rep. Ed Pastor, D-Ariz., told a cheering crowd at a park within shouting distance of the White House. “We have fought in every war.”
But politicians who picture Latinos as illegal immigrants responsible for social ills “are going to destroy our community,” he said. “We are Latinos who need to unify ourselves. We are Americans, too.”
His statement was greeted with a prolonged roar from the crowd of 20,000 to 30,000 people who rallied at the Ellipse park south of the White House for several hours after marching 2-1/2 miles from a minority neighborhood north of the White House.
The centerpiece of the Washington march and rally was a platform of seven demands, which organizers said must be adopted by Congress to ensure full Latino participation in the United States. They are: human and constitutional rights for all; equal opportunities and affirmative action; free public education for all; expansion of health services; citizen police review boards; labor law reform and a $7-per-hour minimum wage; a streamlined citizenship program and an extension of amnesty for those who illegally entered the United States before 1992.
The U.S. Park Police, after the controversy surrounding the crowd estimate on last year’s “Million Man March” event, refused to estimate attendance at the rally. No problems were reported.
Organizers had hoped for 100,000 marchers, but nevertheless were giddy over the festival atmosphere that permeated the event.