ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
And I'm Melissa Block. Across the country, cities are getting ready for major demonstrations next Monday, when immigrants and their supporters plan to take to the streets. Organizers are urging Latinos and others to skip work and school and avoid shopping on May 1st, and spend the day marching instead. As NPR's Mandalit del Barco reports, it's all to protest the tough talk in Congress on illegal immigration.
MANDALIT DEL BARCO reporting:
On what's billed as a great American national boycott May 1st, Los Angeles may be ground zero. Large, mostly Latino business districts will be closed and L.A. police are planning for marches and rallies that could draw half a million people. Javier Rodriguez is one of the march organizers.
Mr. JAVIER RODRIGUEZ (Organizer, May 1 March): It's a day without immigrants in this country. It's a long dream of the immigrant population, that has been stigmatized and so now they want to say with pride, hey, we count.
DEL BARCO: Chicago is also gearing up for a massive demonstration of at least 300,000 people, including Asians, Poles, Filipinos and Irish, but police there are not bracing for trouble says Charles Williams, Deputy Superintendent of the Chicago PD.
Deputy Superintendent CHARLES WILLIAMS (Chicago Police Department): And the police officers that you see at this march will not be dressed in riot gear. They're going to dressed in soft uniforms because we are anticipating an orderly march, where individuals are trying to get out their message.
DEL BARCO: The message is the power of immigrant unity, says Roberto Garza, owner of a cell phone store in Little Village, a mostly Latino neighborhood on Chicago's west side, where stores plan to close.
Mr. ROBERTO GARZA (Store Owner, Chicago, Illinois): We're all involved. I mean, this is something that has taken a life of its own. It's reached a point where there's no borders. Everybody has a stake in this. We all have a stake in this.
DEL BARCO: Even places far from the major urban centers expect to feel the impact. In Dodge City, Kansas, population 30,000, two of the city's major meat packing plants will shut down Monday. Operators say they don't expect the mostly Latino workforce will show up. Police Chief John Ball says it's the new reality for Dodge City, where Latino immigrants now make up half the community.
Police Chief JOHN BALL (Dodge City, Kansas): Well I think we probably reflect the rest of the nation. There's, you know, there's opinions across the board. But I think, you know, for the majority of the people, they don't want this to be a divided community. We want to be one community with common goals and common interests, and just make this community a safe, peaceful place to be and work. And I think that's what the majority of people want, is everybody working together. But again, like I said, we probably reflect all the nation. There are those different groups that get a little more radical in their thinking on each side.
DEL BARCO: Back in Los Angeles, which has produced some of the biggest immigrant demonstrations so far, the Service Employees International Union negotiated a deal with local businesses to give janitors next Monday off. Union Vice President Mike Garcia predicts the turnout will historic.
Mr. MIKE GARCIA (Vice President, Service Employees International Union): From the taxi driver to the office worker to the people in the airports and the restaurants, you know, it's deep. They're saying the boycott is on. They're saying we have to show that we contribute to this country.
DEL BARCO: Garcia calls it a revolt of hardworking immigrants who are tired of living without dignity. But many Latinos already worry about a backlash, and they're urging people who take part in Monday's demonstrations to be peaceful and to show they love America, even if not all of America loves them. Mandalit del Barco, NPR News, Los Angeles.
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