Phoenix marches expected to draw massive turnout As many as 50,000 to 100,000 people likely to bring business, traffic to halt

Yvonne Wingett and Daniel Gonzlez The Arizona Republic Apr. 9, 2006 12:00 AM

Thousands of people will converge on central Phoenix on Monday rallying in support of legalization for undocumented immigrants with a massive march that stands to disrupt traffic and business in the area for most of the day.

At least 120 cities are participating in the National Day of Action, which will include student walkouts, rallies, demonstrations and candlelight vigils.

Monday morning, marchers from around Arizona and the Southwest will gather at the Arizona State Fairgrounds for the 1 p.m. walk to Wesley Bolin Memorial Plaza for a 4 p.m. rally. Organizers expect 50,000 to 100,000 demonstrators for the march, dubbed Somos America: Hoy Marchamos Maana Votamos (We are America: Today We March, Tomorrow We Vote.)

Also on Monday, a group of high school and college students have organized a march of their own, saying they will meet at 10 a.m. at Steele Indian School Park and walk to the state Capitol. A route for that march could not be confirmed.

Phoenix police, the Arizona Department of Public Safety and several other law enforcement agencies will have more than 600 officers at the event to make sure the marches are safe and orderly. About 140 motorcycle officers will escort the marchers along the route, and hundreds of officers will be stationed on the route and in nearby neighborhoods.

If the estimates hold up, the demonstration will likely be Arizona's largest ever. Last month's 20,000-strong protest was the biggest in Phoenix, police said.

Small-business owner Ana de Anda is closing the doors to her shoe store to march. The Los Angeles-born de Anda will walk with family and friends to support legalization of the estimated 11 million to 12 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S.

"We have friends and customers who are undocumented immigrants," said de Anda, 30, of Glendale. "This is a big deal for us. We have to be united in order to be heard."

The national demonstrations, which began last month, have focused the public's attention on immigration reform, and at the same time galvanized hundreds of thousands of immigrant and U.S.-born Latinos to a level not seen since the Chicano movement of the 1960s and 1970s, when Hispanics rose up against political and educational systems they believed to be unjust.

"The most important change that happens with doing this is not so much the immediate impact, but the fact that it empowers you," said Danny Ortega, a Phoenix lawyer who was involved in the Chicano movement.

Voter-registration groups hope to leverage that enthusiasm by signing up new voters and encouraging eligible immigrants to become citizens.

Many area school schedules have been impacted and several bus routes have been altered because of the massive protests. Some Valley businesses are gearing up to operate without employees who plan to march, while others are closing down altogether.

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