On Saturday, I attended the massive march to protest H.R. 4437 and to support immigrant rights. Official estimates put the march at 500,000 people, though I think that's somewhat of an underestimate. Being a veteran of protests, I thought I've seen everything but I've never seen anything like this. The protestors were told to bring American flags and wear white shirts to symbolize peace. The mood was upbeat and fun, and, as was widely reported, there were no arrests or injuries. Latinos of all backgrounds-immigrants, U.S. born, students, elderly, families, activists, regular folks-came out to make this the largest protest in Los Angeles history. The Mayor, along with other elected officials, spoke to the crowd from the south steps. Navigating the space was tricky yet everybody was courteous to one another; nobody was pushing or shoving. Everywhere I looked was a sea of white shirts, and it was truly inspiring.
I believe this Saturday marked a turning point in the immigrant rights movement. By exercising our First Amendment rights to assemble and protest, we made our voices heard in the halls of Congress, new immigrants became part of the political process, and a new generation of activists was born.
I was in City Hall on Monday when groups of students, including many constituents of mine from John Marshall High School, walked out of classes to continue the protest. I came down and addressed the crowd, and listened to some of them talk about their fears and hopes as the sons and daughters of immigrants, and in many cases immigrants themselves. It's been a truly historic weekend in Los Angeles, and I am full of hope that Washington will hear the chorus rising together from the churches, the government, the schools and the streets and will make progress on a sane, humane immigration policy.