The 10th Anniversary of the March 25-2006 1.7 million Mega March  in L.A. and the Immigrant Spring

By Javier Rodriguez  Los Angeles  25 March 2016

The 10th Anniversary of the March 25-2006 1.7 million Mega March  in L.A. and the Immigrant Spring, that culminated with the May 1 Boycott is here and it arrives in the midst of a presidential campaign full of savage ultra-right republican racism, xenophobia and scapegoating  of Mexicans and the 11.3 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. plus attacks on Islam and the 1.2 billion Muslims with threats of war. The celebration also comes as Republican leaders attempt to both derail the Presidential Executive Action to protect 5 million undocumented Americans from deportation now waiting for a Supreme Court decision and as well, the President’s nominee awaits a senate decision to fill the short staff Supreme Court.

The iconic movement of 2006 mobilized millions of Latino immigrants in hundreds of street marches from coast to coast, and a 24 hour general strike which nationally closed 20 industries such as ports, trucking public transportation, businesses and schools. With it, it defeated the infamous Sensenbrenner Bill H.R. 4437, which would have criminalized 12 million plus undocumented and all Americans who were to assist them in entering the country or gave them religious, medical or housing services with long prison sentences.

It was a spectacular show of social insurgency full of rage, pride, dignity, courage and strategic organization in defense of their human rights -seen all over the world.  Like wild fire, the pride also spread through the veins of tens of millions of Latinos of all walks of life. Upon seeing the immigrant fightback, the American spirit and its immigrant roots and solidarity surged in favor of the fighting and dignified undocumented, and the opinion polls immediately showed a majority’s support for comprehensive immigration reform and citizenship, including voters.

The valiant immigration movement wrested the offensive from the ultra-right and the Republican Party, we inoculated the struggle into the national conversation and the mass political pressure, which endured the spring, 66 days and forced the political class to respond. On May 7, the moderate Republican wing introduced the Martinez-Hagel Senate Bill with comprehensive reform and a citizenship path. However it was defeated. The battle moved to the electoral arena and the mega marches inspired and motivated the growing Latino electorate and in that November the Republicans lost both Houses

In 2007 the March 25 Coalition called for another national round of marches for May and in L.A. another boycott was placed on the table. We were successful in motivating over sixty cities. In L.A. the divisions ensued and there were two marches. The M25C galvanized an estimated 100,000 people into the historic downtown L.A., but CHIRLA and labor with Cardinal Mahoney’s endorsement mustered a mere 3,000 in the Wilshire District. The ruling elites, along with Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and the white Police Chief William Bratton, tired, scared and angry of us taking the streets and calling for boycotts, I speculate made sure to pump the LAPD troops for the day.

Sure enough, from 7 AM and on, the smiling faces and gestures of police approval of the year before, disappeared. Instead, the “dark force” hard stares, the ramming motorcycles at the people, police squads crossing the march and other provocations were the order of the day. We had good security and as the reports of the change in demeanor and aggressive conduct, we concluded they were gunning for confrontation. Most likely the size of the crowd and the fact that all of downtown, the fashion district and the garment industry were 90% shutdown, they would have caused a major confrontation, so they moved to plan B, Mahoney’s diminutive demonstration. There, with no visible effective security, they found their moment with a bottle throwing black uniform diminutive group who had nothing to do with the making of either march.

The rest is history. The LAPD special forces, baton in hand, bulldozed and terrorized their way inside McArthur Park and attacked the small dispersed crowd. Men, women, children and the elder, they took no prisoners.  They savagely beat 250 people, including members of the media. Conveniently Bratton was lost somewhere in the Westside and the mayor was on a business trip.

The repressive police brutal conduct sent fear throughout the immigrant cities and regions nationally and it had a chilling effect on the mass dissent. Additionally none of the cops or brass was charged or imprisoned it was impunity at its best.

However the mass movement overcame its divisions and rose to the occasion in defense of Arizona and the fight to defeat the Republican SB 1070 with hundreds of thousands marching in Washington D.C., Los Angles and Arizona. Again in 2013, tens of thousands took the streets to assure the passage of an immigration reform bill but it was defeated.

With the ultra-right taking control of the Republican Party to the present it is responsible for creating the stew –el cardo- of racist intolerance and hate throughout the primaries. It is then almost a given reality, the eclectic neo fascist Donald Trump will be their candidate. In this contextual reality the Latino electorate in alliance with Blacks, Asians, and the new Muslim vote, women, labor, LGBT and progressives has the moral and political duty to trump the candidate and vote in new record numbers, more than 80%. The campaigns for citizenship, to register and motivate and get out the vote are already in motion they will be successful. However where does the immigration reform block stands, especially in a divided L.A. Will it make the same errors of the past and stage many diminutive marches on May 1. One is being called by the Bernie Sanders and reportedly Bernie will march here. On the one hand it’s good news because I estimate easily they will get 50,000 plus people. Caution however, immigration reform and the DAPA-DACA Supreme Court decision is not central to this event. What are you going to do? Will unity win over special interests? ZAZ

Javier Rodriguez is a co-founder and directed the March 25 Coalition from 2006-2011