Phoenix preparing for Monday march Organizers, police gearing up, urging drivers to avoid area

Bob Golfen The Arizona Republic Apr. 7, 2006 12:00 AM

Phoenix police offer simple words of advice for anyone driving west of downtown during Monday's pro-immigrant march and demonstration: Take another route and avoid the traffic mess.

Traffic will be affected with closures and backups on every major street between the Arizona Fairgrounds, downtown Phoenix and the Arizona Capitol as an expected 100,000 people converge on the area to support immigration reforms, according to Sgt. Andy Hill, a police spokesman.

"It's going to be inconvenient for anyone near the (march) route for the entire day," Hill said. "I would recommend that anybody who doesn't have to be in that area should avoid it."

The march is part of a National Day of Protest, with similar events happening in cities across the country, designed to persuade Congress to adopt immigration reform that would allow an estimated 11 million to 12 million undocumented immigrants now in the United States to gain citizenship.

Organizers are trying to help police mitigate traffic problems caused by the march, said Joel Foster, a volunteer spokesman for the event.

"We've been meeting literally every day with Phoenix police and the city," Foster said. "We trust them to do their job, and they've been great for the entire process."

Organizers and police agencies are gearing up for the crowds after being caught unprepared on March 24 when 20,000 demonstrators showed up for a march that jammed 24th Street and parts of the city's east side. This time, all groups involved are ready for as many as five times as many people.

Marchers will gather at 11 a.m. Monday at the fairgrounds, 19th Avenue north of McDowell Road, with streets and public transit expected to be packed with people arriving for the event. Police will close 19th Avenue from Thomas Road south to Monte Vista Drive at that time except for local and event traffic.

Parking could be a problem in the area, with nearby neighborhoods bracing for an influx of parking on their streets.

"I think it's going to be bad for our neighborhood with 100,000 people marching," said Nancy Parana, 41, who lives on Lynwood Street. "But I support their right to march. I am going to stay home and watch the march from my rooftop."

Neighbors also anticipate problems commuting.

"It is going to be harder for me to get home on Monday," said Sandra Mendez, a resident of the F.Q. Story district. "I take a bus to work and will have to get off at the Coliseum (at the fairgrounds) and walk home."

Foster said organizers have asked marchers to carpool or use public transit to help lessen the expected jam up.

At 1 p.m., the march will begin, heading southeast on Grand Avenue to Van Buren Street, then east to Third Avenue, south to Washington Street and west to Wesley Bolin Memorial Plaza at the Capitol for a rally.

The march should take between three and four hours to travel the route and arrive at the Capitol, Hill said. Police will use a combination of road closures and restrictions to keep traffic under control.

"We have a very extensive traffic operations plan, which includes dozens of motorcycle officers from several law enforcement agencies," he said. "There will be some hard (all-day) closures and some temporary closures."

Among the closures will be sections of 19th Avenue, Grand Avenue, Third Avenue and Washington Street during the times when marchers will be in those areas. Starting at noon, the Arizona Department of Public Safety will close I-10 ramps at Seventh and 19th avenues and I-17 off-ramps at the Adams/Jefferson exit.

After the rally ends around 5 p.m., the organizers have asked marchers to take 19th Avenue north to return to the fairgrounds, although, Hill said, police expect people to take various routes to return to their vehicles or head home.

Beside DPS, Hill said other law enforcement agencies helping Phoenix control the march include the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office, Phoenix Fire Department, Arizona Capitol Police, and Mesa and Tempe police departments.

Phoenix police are accustomed to handling large crowds of people in the downtown area, Hill said, particularly near the sports complexes and at Wesley Bolin for Fourth of July fireworks displays. The difference here is that the large crowd of people will be on the move and affecting different areas at different times.

"It's so fluid, we have to be ready for a lot of things," he said.

Bus service also will be affected by the march and rally, said Marie Chappell, spokeswoman for Phoenix Transit, with a number of route changes and delays expected.

"We have about 13 routes that will be impacted, based on information from the organizers," Chappell said. "Service delays are possible, and riders should expect delays throughout the system, not just downtown."

The bus system handles such contingencies routinely, she added. "We are constantly detouring our buses."

Riders also should be prepared for buses that are crowded with marchers heading toward the event in the morning and back home in the evening, she said.

Staff reporter Kanupriya Vashisht contributed to this article.

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