Thousands rally for immigrant rights in downtown Los Angeles

Thousands of activists marched through the streets of downtown Los Angeles on Saturday to oppose immigration enforcement raids and demand that local officials take concrete steps to thwart the “deportation machine” under President Trump.

David Abud, one of the organizers of the march, said the coalition of activists is demanding that city and county officials refuse to invest any resources in immigration enforcement.

Activists also want to ensure that a new fund to provide legal assistance to immigrants won’t exclude those with criminal convictions. They are also asking the city and the county to invest in programs that help immigrants, including day labor centers.

“We want the city and the county to not just declare Los Angeles a ‘sanctuary city’ — which they have not — but to take these strong, concrete policies,” said Abud, who works with the National Day Laborer Organizing Network. 

About 11:30 a.m., thousands of demonstrators gathered at Pershing Square spilled into the intersection of 5th and Hill streets. Latin music played on loudspeakers as the numbers grew from the hundreds to more than 1,000. Some vendors sold bacon-wrapped hot dogs on carts or shirts reading "Not My President."

Rain that threatened the march had stopped earlier.

Large American, Mexican and LGBT flags dotted the scene. Many marchers held home-drawn signs, some with likenesses of the Statue of Liberty and President Trump.

Carmen Bermúdez's sign was honest: "I usually sleep in on Saturdays."

It was the Mexican immigrant's first protest. She carried another sign that read, "We gave you guacamole. Have some respect."

Bermudez said she was lucky that no one in her family is undocumented, but that she felt she needed to support the entire immigrant community.

Vanessa Velasquez, 17, and her younger sister flipped hot dogs on carts at the northeast corner of Pershing Square. She said they work with their father every Saturday and have recently worked at four separate protests.

She said she likes working the protests because it allows her to lend her support. Her parents, both in the country illegally, immigrated from Guatemala 18 years ago.

Velasquez said her family has been scared since Trump’s election. She said her mother works downtown and recently changed her driving route to avoid the immigration agents rumored to be stopped cars and checking for legal documents.

She worries her parents will be deported.

“If he does and we stay here, we’re going to be by ourselves,” she said. “It’s not fair how the president is treating people.”

In a declaration posted on Facebook, organizers of the march wrote that local officials had shown “a lack of urgency” in protecting immigrants and argued that L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti had buckled to “empty threats” from the Trump administration to defund sanctuary cities.

Garcetti has called Los Angeles “a city of sanctuary,” but has argued in the past that there is no clear definition of a “sanctuary city.” 

“We regularly cooperate with immigration authorities — particularly in cases that involve serious crimes — and always comply with constitutional detainer requests,” Garcetti said in a statement earlier this year. “What we don’t do is ask local police officers to enforce federal immigration laws — and that’s an official LAPD policy that has been enforced for nearly 40 years.”

The march was set to begin about noon Saturday at Pershing Square and end with a rally at Los Angeles City Hall. The groups supporting the march include Union Del Barrio, Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, Black Lives Matter Los Angeles and the National Lawyers Guild.

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