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Immigration Law Draws Thousands To Protest In LA

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Immigration Law Draws Thousands To Protest In LA

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Immigration Law Draws Thousands To Protest In LA

Immigration Law Draws Thousands To Protest In LA

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Rallies demanding federal immigration reform were held in cities across the country Saturday thanks to Arizona's tough new law. Guy Raz speaks with NPR's Carrie Kahn, who is covering a march in Los Angeles.

(Soundbite of protests)

GUY RAZ, host:

That's the sound of demonstrators in Los Angeles today, protesting Arizona's tough new anti-illegal immigration law. Protesters held rallies across the country.

NPR's Carrie Kahn is at the gathering in Los Angeles. And, Carrie, L.A. obviously is a city with a large immigrant population. Is this protest specifically about Arizona or is about something bigger?

CARRIE KAHN: Well, every year, May 1st, there is a May Day rally which usually the subject is either workers' rights or (unintelligible) about immigration reform. But this year, protesters mostly are out here galvanized about the Arizona law. I've seen a lot of people here with yellow armbands with Jewish stars on it, likening the Arizona law to Hitler's Nazi Germany. There's lots of signs out here that say boycott Arizona. We are all Arizona.

And I spoke to this one woman, her name is Dolores Jones(ph). And she said she was really angry about the law that's why she came out. She saw the targeted people who look Latino. She said even she was worried one day about getting stopped by police.

Ms. DOLORES JONES: I was going to church to do something and I didn't have my purse with me and there was a police right in front of me, and I'm of Mexican descent. And I thought, oh my God, if I get stopped for a minor infraction, what's going to happen? I mean, it's scaring me who was born here and have lived here for 60 plus years.

KAHN: And that's all we've been hearing from protesters throughout the day here.

RAZ: Now, as you mentioned, the city has had several large pro-immigration rallies in recent years. You've been to many of them. Is this one different, Carrie? Does it feel different?

KAHN: Well, it's definitely a very big one. In recent years, organizers have had a hard time bringing people out. But the Arizona law has angered a lot of people and galvanized a lot of people.

Now I'm at the top of the hill in downtown Los Angeles. I could see about 10 full city blocks and it's just a sea of people. There are American flags everywhere of all sizes and shapes.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was speaking. He was telling people to come out. He's been saying it for days to come out and protest. Show the city, show the state and the rest of the world that immigrants are not bad people, that they are good people. They're hard working and they just come here for a better life. And that's what we've seen today.

RAZ: And some of those previous demonstrations have led to trouble with police. What about this year? Is the police presence there pretty heavy? Is it muted? What are you seeing there?

KAHN: Well, it's not overwhelming. It's pretty low key. There are a lot of cops on bicycles, mostly on the side streets. The atmosphere is very festival-like. There's lots of small children around, waving flags. There are street vendors everywhere and the police is definitely off to the side.

And as you said, there was - three years ago, there was a terrible confrontation with the LAPD and immigrant rights protesters - journalists and protesters who were beaten by the police. But this is very, very much different. You know, the chief of police was speaking this week publicly decrying the law in Arizona, saying that LAPD wants nothing to do with such a law and supporting their policy here in Los Angeles to not ask about immigration status during police contact.

And also this year, I have to tell you, Guy, they're starting a new thing. The police has been texting through the march and we get these little messages every once in a while. They say, have a great march. It's hot out, don't forget your sunscreen and drink lots of water. So it's a very different police situation this year.

RAZ: That's NPR's Carrie Kahn in Los Angeles. Carrie, thanks.

KAHN: You're welcome.

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