Immigration Protests: View from Los Angeles

In Los Angeles, a day of protests is expected to affect business across the city as marches and rallies fill downtown streets and parks.

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ALEX CHADWICK, host:

Today's demonstrations have closed small grocery stores in New Jersey. They prompted prayer vigils in Florida. They've brought workers to the streets in New Orleans. Thousands of people are gathered in Chicago for a rally, and hundreds are at a park in Houston.

But Los Angeles has been the epicenter of the pro-immigration protests. In March, hundreds of thousands of demonstrators paraded through downtown L.A. More marches are planned today.

Just before the program started this morning, I spoke with NPR's Karen Grigsby Bates.

Karen Grigsby Bates, where are you? And what are you seeing?

KAREN GRIGSBY BATES reporting:

Hi, Alex. I'm downtown, at the edge of Los Angeles' downtown, in a section of downtown that is actually normally populated with lots of immigrant shoppers and businessmen at Broadway and Olympic.

And as you can hear behind me there is a very enthusiastic crowd that is just now mobilizing to march up the street to City Hall. We're looking at lots and lots and lots of American flags waiving. There are several Mexican flags.

In the midst of all this, there are lots of hand-painted murals. There are signs that they say (foreign spoken) immigrants are workers, not terrorists, white people stole this country from Mexicans and American Indians.

You can hear the hoopla of lots of whistles. There are guides that are making sure that people stay in an orderly line as they float up the street towards City Hall.

City Hall is a larger symbol of the nexus of power in Los Angeles. And so what these folks are doing are going literally onto the lawn of City Hall to say, guess what, people, your city doesn't work without us.

CHADWICK: And have the police issued any crowd estimates at this point?

BATES: No. They're reluctant to do that this early in the game. They're making sure that people are not spilling over and are marching in a fairly orderly way. But this is a pretty calm crowd.

And the march is actually picking up people as it goes along. They're starting here but other folks are falling in as they go.

CHADWICK: You were on a bus this morning going through downtown just checking who was riding the bus. How did it look?

BATES: Well, let's just say my producer and I upped the population of the ridership by about 100 percent. It was very empty. And the driver we talked to, the number 16 going sort of out to the middle of West L.A., said that normally this time of day things are standing-room only. And you could have rolled a bowling ball down that aisle.

CHADWICK: Okay. Another march planned for this afternoon down Wilshire Boulevard, a major thoroughfare in the city. What are the plans for that?

BATES: I guess they're hoping that folks from the morning march will also come to this one. But, as you know, there was schism between do we stay out, do we put our, take our kids out of school?

And so this is designed for you to be able to take your children because it's after school or for you to get off work a little bit early if you had to go to work, to come down and show your solidarity.

CHADWICK: NPR's Karen Grigsby Bates reporting from Los Angeles. Karen, thank you.

BATES: Thanks, Alex.

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