Migrant rallies draw thousands Marchers seek federal reforms

Annabelle Garay Associated Press Apr. 10, 2006 12:00 AM

DALLAS - Tens of thousands of people banged drums, waved U.S. flags and marched in a protest Sunday urging federal lawmakers to pass immigration reform that would legalize an estimated 11 million to 12 million undocumented workers.

Shouting Si, se puede! - Spanish for "Yes, we can!" - the marchers crammed into the downtown streets. They included families pushing strollers with their children and ice cream vendors who placed American flags on their carts. Many wore white clothing to symbolize peace.

Police estimated the crowd at 350,000 to 500,000. There were no reports of violence.

It was among several demonstrations that drew thousands of protester Sunday in New Mexico, Minnesota, Michigan, Alabama, Utah, Oregon and California.

"If we don't protest they'll never hear us," said Oscar Cruz, 23, a construction worker who marched among the estimated 50,000 in San Diego. Cruz, who came illegally to the United States in 2003, said he had feared a crackdown but felt emboldened by the large marches across the country in recent weeks.

In Birmingham, Ala., demonstrators marched along the same streets where civil rights activists clashed with police during the 1960s and rallied at a park where a statue of Martin Luther King Jr. stands as a reminder of the fight for equal rights and the violence that once plagued the city.

"We've got to get back in touch with the Statue of Liberty," said the Rev. Lawton Higgs, a United Methodist pastor and activist. "We've got to get back in touch with the civil rights movement, because that's what this is about."

The rallies also drew counterdemonstrators.

In Salt Lake City, Jerry Owens, 59, a Navy veteran from Midway wearing a blue Minuteman T-shirt and camouflage pants, held a yellow "Don't Tread on Me" flag.

"I think it's real sad because these people are really saying it's OK to be illegal aliens," Owens said. "What Americans are saying is 'Yes, come here. But come here legally.' And I think that's the big problem."

Sunday's demonstrations come ahead of nationwide protests set weeks ago for today.

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