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Posted by aaron at 11:00AM, Sunday, December 04th, 2005

Tucson Immigration Protest, April 10, 2006: Bush Will Respect Their Moral Authoritah

An amazingly well-organized and peaceful protest mounted by immigration activists, with Right on their side, shows that politicians who'd bet on voter apathy and naivete could be in for a surprise.

We attended the Tucson branch of the coordinated protests going on across the Southwest today. Several thousand people marched peacefully -- we saw no unpleasant interactions with the police presence, while the cops kept a respectful distance and didn't appear intent on intimidating anyone. The attendees were a hugely varied cross-section of the Hispanic and Mexican-American communities here: lots and lots of families; teenagers; young activists wearing T-shirts from previous immigrants' rights rallies and border-aid programs; older guys in cowboy hats and black cowboy boots; a few LGBT folks; and a disappointingly small smattering of white people.

The crowd had a thrilling amount of energy; the march, which started in South Tucson and proceeded North, started with some Native American dancers with drums; as it progressed, it was punctuated by occasional singing and chanting (including the slogan "Si se pueda" ("Yes we can") and the South American Socialist solidarity song "La raza unida nunca sera vencida" ("A People United Will Never Be Defeated.") There was a lot of coverage by professional and amateur press -- countless DLSRs, and a bunch of pro photographers and video crews; in addition, almost everyone participating or standing by seemed to be shooting with a digital camera of some sort, or on their cell-phone. It occurs to me that the cell-phone is an astounding organizational tool for this sort of thing now.

One striking aspect of the march was the focused and direct messaging: there were literally thousands of "Humanitarian Aid is Never a Crime" signs; there was also a smattering of other key slogans: "We are America," "We are part of the solution," and "Permanent Residency." All the signs and memes supported a very tight message. They were also almost exclusively in English, which seems pretty media-savvy: the organizers seem to have realized that it's important to ensure the memes and associated images which spread reach the broadest possible audience, even if the chants and songs that kept the marchers organized were largely in Spanish. At any rate, this wasn't a platform for every progressive pet cause -- this was one message, articulated very clearly by a broad variety of individuals in diverse demographics. That makes it hard to argue, especially when those core memes draw upon such quintessentially American ideals -- that this is a nation of immigrants, and that those immigrants bring a positive vision of a better future, towards which, as they articulate, they're actively working. Immigrants have the support of the very American Dream itself, and as such, anyone who opposes immigration is, by definition, anti-American.

We heard, later in the day, that once the march reached central Tucson, there were some altercations between the marchers and counter-demonstrators. Given the crowd we saw, I have to guess any blame lies at the feet of xenophobic counter-demonstrators, as this was far and away the most peaceful, family-oriented political rally I've ever seen. I'd also note that we saw no such counter demonstrators -- I guess they didn't have the balls to show their faces in front of 5,000+ Mexican-Americans in South Tucson.

Overall, the media-savvy planning, the well-ordered and deliberately peaceful nature of the protest, and the canny-seeming crowd we saw all point to a political force that's been wildly underestimated by the reactionary whites in the Congress who are proposing HR 4437. Politicians who think immigrants as a group are stupid, ill-informed, or poorly-organized have made some grave miscalculations in supporting this legislation.

So, does this movement spell trouble for the Republicans?

Indications point to yes.
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