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Vol. 72/No. 21      May 26, 2008

Immigrants protest harassment
in Seattle area on Cinco de Mayo
PACIFIC, Washington, May 6—As part of an ongoing struggle against racist harassment against Latinos in this small town south of Seattle, activists here organized a Cinco de Mayo protest meeting and march yesterday.

Since last summer working people have organized against local police profiling and arrests of Latinos. Cops have in some cases brought them to the Northwest Detention Center immigration jail in Tacoma, Washington.

In an effort to present himself as trying to improve relations, Pacific mayor Richard Hildreth organized a Cinco de Mayo event this year. But he did so without consulting any of the Latinos in town, which many activists saw as adding insult to injury.

El Comité Pro-Amnistía General y Justicia Social (Committee for General Amnesty and Social Justice) called a protest meeting and march. El Comité helped organize a successful May Day action in Seattle demanding legalization of immigrants last week. A number of students from Seattle University, members of Chicano Student Movement of Aztlán (MEChA) and an immigrant rights group called NO SIR!, also attended the Cinco de Mayo protest.

Police denied a march permit for Cinco de Mayo and threatened protesters with arrest. Two armed cops came onto the grounds of the church where the protest meeting was being held.

“If you hold a march there will be consequences because you don’t have a permit,” one cop blurted out, interrupting the meeting where activists were deciding how to proceed. Meanwhile, a dozen rightist counter-protesters gathered near the church with large American flags and signs.

Meeting participants decided to proceed with a strolling sidewalk procession without banners as a way to avoid arrest. Twenty-five adults and a dozen children walked from the New Hope Lutheran Church to the Community Center where the mayor’s Cinco de Mayo event was being held, chanting “Sí se puede!” (Yes we can). At the community center, they confronted the mayor about the cop’s threats.

Hildredth took his distance from the threats and said he never intended for the protesters to be arrested. “I’ll look into the actions by the police. My only concern was with liability and public safety.”

He pledged to open a dialogue with the Latino community in Pacific. Pacific resident Antonio Flores said, “We have heard this before from the mayor.”

Afterwards, about 40 people gathered at the church to celebrate. A reporter and photographer from the local Univision TV news covered the entire event and reported on it the next evening on Seattle’s cable channel 29.
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