70,000 march against immigration bill


LOS ANGELES -- In one of the largest mass protests in the city's history, a column of nearly 70,000 demonstrators more than a mile long marched downtown yesterday to protest Proposition 187, an anti-illegal immigration initiative, and its principal advocate, California Gov. Pete Wilson.

"This proposition is not against the illegal [immigrant]; it's against children," declared Salvador Alendar, a 32-year-old textile factory worker and Mexican native who carried his 2-year-old daughter, Lisbeth, on his shoulders throughout the march's almost 4-mile route.

It was a sentiment repeated by other outraged marchers and by the dozens of speakers who took to an elevated podium set up across from City Hall.

"We've got to send a message to the rest of the nation that California will not stand on a platform of bigotry, racism and scapegoating," declared Joe R. Hicks, executive director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the black civil rights organization founded by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

The march was the latest in a series of anti-187 demonstrations, but polls have shown continued strong support for the initiative. By contrast, proposition backers have run a near-invisible campaign, mostly responding to news media inquiries and appearing at forums.

Proposition 187 would bar illegal immigrants from receiving public school educations and a range of other state- and county-funded benefits, including nonemergency health care and a variety of social services.

March organizers said more than 100,000 participated yesterday, but police estimated that 60,000 to 70,000 took part. Still, it was the largest protest gathering here in decades, surpassing Vietnam War-era demonstrations.

Police reported no serious injuries and no arrests.

Though the vast majority of participants were Latinos, reflecting the region's large immigrant population from Mexico and elsewhere in Latin America, some non-Latino whites, Asian Americans, African-Americans and others also took part.

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