TEMPE, Ariz. – Thousands of people from around the country descended on the Phoenix area Saturday as supporters and opponents of Arizona’s tough new crackdown on illegal immigration held separate rallies.
Marchers carrying signs, banners and flags from the United States and Mexico filled a five-mile stretch of central Phoenix, demanding that the federal government refuse to cooperate with Arizona authorities trying to enforce the law.
Police declined to estimate the size of the crowd, but it appeared at least 10,000 to 20,000 protesters braved 94-degree heat. Organizers had said they expected the demonstration to bring as many as 50,000 people.
Opponents of the law suspended their boycott against Arizona and bused in protesters from around the country. Some used umbrellas or cardboard signs to protect their faces from the sun. Volunteers handed out water bottles from the beds of pickup trucks.
About 20 people were treated for heat- or fatigue-related symptoms, and seven of them were taken to a hospital, said Phoenix police spokesman Sgt. Tommy Thompson. There were no arrests or other incidents, he said.
The law’s opponents also gathered at capitals in states including Texas and Oregon, and about 300 people protested at the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City demanding legalization for undocumented Mexican workers in the United States.
In San Francisco, about 500 people gathered Saturday night outside AT&T Park, where the Giants were playing the Arizona Diamondbacks. Leaders of the rally said it was organized to help push for a boycott against Arizona.
About 7,000 supporters of Arizona’s law gathered Saturday evening at a baseball stadium in suburban Tempe, encouraging like-minded Americans to “buycott” Arizona by planning vacations in the state.
Supporters said they are standing with Arizona for trying to enforce immigration laws because the federal government has failed to do so.
“The operative word in all this is ‘illegal,’ ” said Christine Griswold, of Palm Desert, Calif. “It has nothing to do with their race. It’s that they’re coming to the country illegally.”
The law requires that police conducting traffic stops or questioning people about possible legal violations ask them about their immigration status if there is “reasonable suspicion” that they’re in the country illegally.
Critics of the law, set to take effect July 29, say it unfairly targets Hispanics and could lead to racial profiling. Proponents insist racial profiling will not be tolerated, but civil rights leaders worry that officers will still assume illegal immigrants are Hispanic.
Some marchers chanted “Si se puede,” a phrase coined by Hispanic civil rights leader Cesar Chavez that roughly means “Yes we can.”