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The Oakland Tribune - Sunday, January 28, 2001

Hispanics, others march for immigrant rights

4,000 turn out for Oakland rally

By Glenn Chapman, staff writer

OAKLAND -- Thousands of demonstrators paraded through Oakland,s predominately Hispanic Fruitvale neighborhood Saturday to urge local and national leaders to better protect the rights of immigrants.

Marchers waved American and Mexican flags along with banners calling for amnesty for every immigrant. Chants of "Si, se puede" and Estamos aqui, no vamos a ir" resounded as the sea of demonstrators flowed from St. Elizabeth's Catholic Church on 34th Avenue to Carmen Flores Park.

It took nearly an hour for the estimated 4,000 marchers to make their way along International Boulevard to the small park on Fruitvale near East 16th Street. People paused on the sidewalks under the mid-day sun to echo the sentiments of the demonstrators. Motorists stuck waiting in blocked traffic honked car horns in support.

"It is good," said Rogelio Bercerril, who broke from his labors in a Fruitvale produce market to watch the marchers file past. "They are trying to protect everyone's rights."

"Labor leaders organized the march and ensuing rally in the park. The demonstration brought together political activists, union members, church groups, politicians and members of the East Bay's minority communities.

"I'm proud to see so many people out here to fight for what is just, what is right," said Democratic Rep. Barbara Lee, who joined US Sen. Barbara Boxer and state Attorney General Bill Lockyer in the march. "We are going to make sure they hear it there."

Demonstrators called for local and national legislation that protects the rights of immigrants and gives amnesty to residents who have yet to win citizenship. Boxer told the passionate throng to be prepared for a hostile reception in Washington, D.C.

"We have a tough fight on our hands," Boxer said, referring to the opposition she expects from the Bush administration. "First of all, the wrong man was sworn into office.

"He doesn't understand what a real minimum wage is," she continued. "We must teach him, and stand together for the working people." Boxer vowed that she, Lee and other political leaders represented at the rally would carry to fight for immigrant amnesty and rights to Capitol Hill.

"My ancestors were brought to America Illegally, in chains, as immigrant." Lee told the cheering crowd. "They were brought here as slaves, but slavery has ended."