Immigration Demonstration in Downtown Tampa by Nancy Morgan04/03/06
In response to House and Senate bills to address illegal immigration, tensions are rising and hundreds of thousands of protesters are taking to the streets throughout America to defend the rights of immigrants. In Florida, several groups have formed to unite against what immigrants say are punitive measures that will have a devastating effect on their communities and families. Yesterday, an estimated 80 to 100 demonstrators gathered in downtown Tampa to join the protests. Nancy Morgan reports:
They arrived a few cars at a time at first. Men, women and children, all dressed in red shirts with their groupÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s logo on the front, IUF, Immigrants United for Freedom. Oscar Salas, the organizer, came with his wife Martha Delamora and their three small children. Salas formed the Dade City Chapter just two weeks ago after meeting Blanca Gonzales of Plant City, the groupÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s founder. He said he came to Tampa to send a message.
House Bill 4437, passed by the House, has become the rallying cry for groups across America, galvanizing the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants now in the United States. 4437 would make being in the United States illegally a felony. Other punitive measures included in the Bill have immigrants worried . Several Senate bills are being debated, but none has yet passed. This issue has divided the nation, causing many to turn their anger against the entire immigrant population. Martha Delamora said that the problem is that too many people do not understand who the immigrants really are.
As the afternoon progressed, more and more demonstrators arrived. A large display called Ã¢â‚¬Å“The Wall of ShameÃ¢â‚¬â„¢Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ was set up on the sidewalk in front of the Federal Courthouse. Listed on the display were the names of the estimated 4,000 people who have died trying to get to the United States. Atop the display, coiled barbed wire symbolized the dangerous obstructions that immigrants face every day. Betty Lamb, a Florida native, but not a member of the immigrant community, stood watching the demonstrators assemble. And soon, she joined them.
Among the crowd were the children of the protestors, from small babies to teens. A mother huddled them together for a picture, and prompted them to recite the dayÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s chant.
And then, they said it in English.
The crowd swelled and protestors held American flags and signs, lining the entire sidewalk in front of the courthouse. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Support our Cause,Ã¢â‚¬? Ã¢â‚¬Å“Would You Do This Job?Ã¢â‚¬? Ã¢â‚¬Å“One Nation Under GodÃ¢â‚¬? Ã¢â‚¬Å“4437 Affects Us All.Ã¢â‚¬? Three-year-old Liberty, daughter of Oscar and Martha, held her tiny sign, which read Ã¢â‚¬Å“ Help Keep My Family Together.Ã¢â‚¬? A few passers-by stood across the street, and one, his fist raised in solidarity, crossed over to the protestors. Randy, a native of Plant City, said that he doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know much about politics, but he understands the people.
Sylvia Torres, one of the IUF organizers from Plant City held the bullhorn and spoke directly to a small group of people who had gathered to watch the demonstration.
Soon, other groups joined the crowd, some from Honduras and Columbia. A group of women and children, wearing blue and white striped shirts, the colors of the flag of Argentina, had come to support the cause. A woman with the group, who said her name is Roxanna, and that she is an illegal, summed up her reason for being there.
Al Fox, a Democratic candidate running for the U. S. Congress, walked into the crowd and said that he knew this issue would surface sooner or later.
The demonstration ended late in the afternoon, but Oscar Salas vowed that his group will continue to grow and they will continue to fight for freedom for all immigrants. America has, he said, awakened a sleeping giant.
IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m Nancy Morgan reporting for WMNF News