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Protest organizers face internal shake-up

Thu., April 20, 2006, midnight

LOS ANGELES – Sharp divisions are emerging among organizers of the pro-immigrant rallies that brought hundreds of thousands of marchers into the streets across the nation, with two leading coalitions calling for starkly different approaches to the next major action scheduled for May 1.

In separate Los Angeles news conferences Wednesday, the March 25 Coalition of 100 political and immigrant rights organizations reiterated its call for a boycott of work, school and consumer activity to demonstrate immigrants’ economic power.

But the We Are America coalition – which includes the Roman Catholic Church and 125 labor, business and immigrant advocacy groups – urged people to attend a rally after work and school.

Both coalitions say they are united on the ultimate goal – adoption of just and humane immigration reform legislation – but differed over whether a boycott would prove counterproductive by jeopardizing workers’ jobs and students’ grades. Some advocates also expressed fear that a boycott would fuel negative public opinion, which began building after thousands of students walked out of classes last month, many of them waving the Mexican flag.

A boycott would create chaos as well as a backlash by giving fuel to the anti-illegal immigrant movement, said Spanish-language DJ Renan “El Cucuy” Almendarez Coello, a key figure in urging people to attend the March 25 rally in Los Angeles, which drew an estimated 500,000 people.

“We came here to work and not to say don’t work,” Coello said in Spanish at the We Are America” news conference at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Angels, which featured Auxiliary Bishop Gabino Zavala and about 20 other immigration reform advocates.

But Nativo Lopez, boycott supporter and president of the Mexican American Political Association, said a more confrontational approach in the model of Cesar Chavez and Martin Luther King Jr. was needed to shake up the nation’s power structure and demonstrate the indispensable role that illegal immigrants play in the economy. He questioned why organizations that celebrate the civil rights leaders through Masses and annual memorial events balk at following their tactics.


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