by Kristen Piechocki
On May 1, 2010 I attended the Los Angeles Immigration Rally to experience and photograph the intensity of emotions surrounding the newest law in Arizona. We arrived at a stage that was set up with Mexican Polka music playing, people holding signs, sporting protest shirts, and many people waving flags. The majority of the flags were American flags waved with pride and fervor. As I looked down the street the crowd seemed to snake down the pavement. One speaker came to the microphone and said they estimated nearly 500,000 people were there and honestly from my 15 minute walk to the site I would not have been surprised if that was the actual number.
The mayor of Los Angeles spoke to a warm reception and there were a few other speakers, one of whom was a Catholic priest giving his support to the rally. Many of the signs were insightful, amusing, and one was downright appalling. A very large banner showing President Obama with a Hitler moustache and many were responding to it, mostly with dislike. Many people were screaming, “GET THAT OUT SIGN OF HERE!” I think many felt the sign was inappropriate to the cause of the rally; the sign said, “From hero, to heroin” implying that Obama is the kingpin of the drug cartel importing opium from Afghanistan. Security running the rally soon came to the two young men carrying the banner and asked them to leave the area. They were asked to stand behind barricades where they would not be blocking people’s view of the stage. I was glad to see that they didn’t have many supporters; although I did see the press taking photos of the banner. It’s a shame how so many people speaking about important things can be overshadowed by two knuckleheads soaking the entire spotlight onto their ignorance.
When we got home we heard on the news that they said there were 60,000 people in attendance – they downplayed the rally. Yet, in one of the suburbs there was a group of 25 people who gathered to show their support for the Arizona law and they were given more attention and time than the thousands of people against the law who gathered downtown. The media’s inability to show balanced news is quite discerning and it’s sad but more then often it influences how many people then view the issues.
I personally have no ability to know exactly how many people were at the LA rally but being there, there is no way overlook the many people walking all around downtown those that chose not to stay at the main rally site and took their protests to the overpasses, to the tourist areas like Olvera Street, and to the surrounding area. Even if the numbers of people at the rally wasn’t 500,000 there are clearly many people all over the country who dislike the idea of police hassling people because of their appearance or the language they speak. Everyone understands the problems with illegal immigration but as one of the most memorable signs stated, “What does an illegal look like?”