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Thousands pack Balboa Park to show support for Immigrants

Thousands packed the park at 6th and Laurel Street near downtown San Diego at the end of the day yesterday , to show their support of immigrants and to be a part of the National Day of Civic Engagement. KPBS reporter Alison St John was there.

The crowd was a remarkable mixture, and grew more and more diverse as the evening wore on. As the event began, young latino families with small children packed the front rows around the stage, waving flags and signs that read , It's not a crime to work, and we are all immigrants.

Today is a day of action today is a day for us to demonstrate that we have political power..

Away from the stage, over on the edge of the park, a long table was surrounded by a small crowd

You want to register to vote OK laughs

The half dozen chairs at the table were permanently occupied.. As soon as one person got up, there was someone else to slide in to take their place, and fill out a voter registration form . Elia Gascar, who signed her form with obvious satisfaction, says she became a citizen a few months ago but wasn't motivated till now to join the electorate.

GASCAR: "I 'm ready, that's what I was waiting for, so I think its great."

A few feet away at another table, Victor Adirondo was part of a team helping people sign a different paper...

VICTOR ADIRONDO: "They're collecting signatures to send to the senators there are about 3,200 so far that we have this is what it says, dear senator we urge you to support immigration reform that must include the following principals.

The letter asks for legislation that reunites families, creates an earned path to citizenship, and protects workers. It ends with the words, We will be watching closely how this progresses through Congress and your vote on this important issue.

Hanging out on the edge of the crowd were groups of high school students, young voters in the making, just waking up to their potential political power. Cousins Mara and Ana Pecado made different decisions about whether to attend school Mara decided to skip it.

MARA PECADO: "I think its important to support this, it's the least I could do, you know."

ANA PECADO: "My friend actually called me in the morning, she's like oh you need to go to school cause the principal said all 8th graders that aren't going to school are not going to the 8th grade dance. That's kind of a threat so its freedom of speech and people get to stand up what they believe in and let their voice be heard you know."

A few years older and much more mature politically, UCSD social justice student Maki Matsumura stood with her multi ethnic group of friends, and marveled at the change she sees happening, history in the making before her eyes.

MAKI MATSOMURA: "It's sort of like the first real May Day we've seen in the United States for several decades and it's really unified and it's organized and that's different from what we've been seeing in the past, and its powerful."

The exuberance of the crowd spilled over into the street as a wide swath of people broke into a march down 6th Avenue. Cars blocked by the parade mostly joined in the spirit of the rally, and the drivers, rather than honking in frustration, leaned their horns to show support.
By the end of the evening, as the light began to fade, candles appeared, and the mood changed to one of hope and expectation.

Tonight with your candles lit we're asking our elected officials to be enlightened and to create laws in this country of immigration that give dignity and respect to all people, si se puede chant.

Alison St John KPBS News.

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