PHOENIX – Police arrested several people during a march by hundreds of activists to demand the repeal of a new Arizona state law criminalizing illegal immigration.
It was unclear exactly how many activists were arrested, while there were no reports of clashes between protesters and police heavily guarding the site of the protest in Phoenix.
Demonstrators waving U.S. and Mexican flags and marching to the sound of drums began their protest outside the city’s federal courthouse, where on Wednesday U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton suspended the most contentious elements of SB1070.
They walked amid a formidable police presence and a throng of reporters to the offices of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who on Thursday was to conduct an illegal-immigration sweep in a Latino sector of the state capital.
Shouts of “Stop SB1070!” and “Yes, we can” could be heard above the noise of traffic, police sirens and a helicopter that was patrolling the area.
Activist Mar Cardenas traveled from California to join the protests, telling Efe that Bolton’s ruling is just a “partial victory” and that “what is needed is comprehensive immigration reform.”
One activist wore an Arpaio mask and a striped prison uniform while beating a huge drum that provided musical accompaniment throughout the protest, while an elderly woman who covered the route in a wheelchair denounced SB1070 as an “unjust law.”
Organized by groups such as Promise Arizona and Puente, the protest came hours before the state’s Republican governor, Jan Brewer, filed an appeal before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals seeking to reverse Bolton’s decision.
Her preliminary injunction against parts of the law included suspending a requirement that state and local police verify the immigration status of people they encounter in the course of normal law-enforcement duties.
Bolton’s decision also affects a provision requiring immigrants to carry their documents with them at all times and another making it an offense for undocumented immigrants to congregate in public places to seek work.
The Arizona protest was just one of dozens scheduled for Thursday in different U.S. cities, part of a nationwide movement in support of comprehensive legislation that would legalize the status of the country’s estimated 12 million undocumented migrants.
Nationwide polls show a majority of Americans support SB1070, which Brewer signed into law in April and which went into effect – minus the controversial provisions that Bolton blocked – on Thursday.
But critics of the measure say it will prompt police to target Hispanics, who make up most of Arizona’s estimated 460,000 undocumented immigrants.
Bolton’s ruling was a victory for opponents of SB1070, which faces seven separate suits in federal court, including one filed by the U.S. Justice Department.
President Barack Obama, who campaigned on a promise of comprehensive immigration reform, described SB1070 as “misdirected,” while the Justice Department’s suit contends the law infringes on the federal government’s exclusive jurisdiction over immigration matters.
The other legal challenges to the Arizona law focus on issues of civil rights and equal protection. EFE