Ride: Confrontations at the End of the Journey
From El Diario
October 5, 2003
By Izadeli Montalvo
The long peregrination of immigrants, documented
and undocumented, that crossed the country in a caravan of buses
to demand equal rights concluded yesterday in Queens with a rally
that brought music, food, propaganda of all types -- and controversy.
range of flags from different places around the world, the majority
of them from Latin America, adorned the giant park that served
as a speaking place where dozens of labor organizations, politicians
and activists sent a new message of hope to the multitudes.
figures present at the demonstration were Councilmember Joel Rivera,
Assemblyman Jose Peralta, Councilmember Hiram Monserrate,
Congressman Charles Rangel and the Speaker of the City Council
Gifford Miller, among others.
“We are here to say ‘yes’ to the legalization
of immigrants,” said
Peralta. “We are here to say ‘yes’ to equal rights
for workers. We want to say ‘yes’ to civil rights and
reuniting families,” said the Queens assemblyman.
superficially the event seemed to be under control, not everything
went as planned. This situation provoked various confrontations
between organizers, the security company contracted for the demonstration
and the police, according to activist Jerry Dominguez.
one of the main coordinators of the event, had several heated confrontations
with police officers, security personnel
and other Anglo organizers because he felt like the Hispanic community
was being disrespected in various ways.
Witnesses to the confrontation
said that the activist was thrown out of the event and was even
threatened with arrest.
“It bothers me that they put up so many metal barriers,
as if we were cattle, and there was in my opinion an inadequate
of the different immigrants of the world on the stage and very
little Spanish was spoken,” Dominguez said.
at one point the activist became angry when security personnel,
police officers and other organizers did not allow him
to access an area behind the stage, though he had an unlimited
“I have a leadership position and I worked from start to
finish on this… it bothers me that they didn’t let
us cook with propane gas, that they took chairs away from women
and that the even took the sticks from the flags… it is like,
you invite me, you use me and then you spit in my face,” said
One witness, and other Mexican organizers, disapproved
of Dominguez’ actions
as he confronted the police and other collaborators when they stopped
him and questioned his identity.
“He threw off his hat and stomped on the floor and started
to insult them with bad words when they didn’t let him go
pass. It is shameful, he shouldn’t act like this because
he is a leader,” said
an organizer who asked not to be identified.
“We all should speak the English language, there shouldn’t
be division because this is a struggle that belongs to all of us,
not only to Hispanic people,” said Noel Rodriguez, a witness
to the incident. “He wanted to go in the back door and they
didn’t let him, so he started to insult them, saying he was
being discriminated against for being Hispanic,” he added.
Mojas, another organizer, defended Dominguez, saying that he had
been treated with a lack of respect. “He is a very
dedicated person and very committed to his community. There were
no African representatives that spoke on the stage, there was some
aggression, people of color felt excluded by white organizers that
wanted to control the event.”
On the other hand, activists
working for immigrants and labor organizations both say that
they need to continue fighting hard to better labor
conditions and reform the laws that separate families.
“We are looking to improve laws about working conditions
for immigrants and to make it easier to get visas,” said
John Patrick Edmons, an organizer with the union OPEIU, local 153
of the AFL-CIO.
The group “United Immigrants” from local
75, a union that is dedicated to protecting workers that labor
conditions, such as being exposed to asbestos and chemicals, called
for unity within its own organization, where apparently there are
differences among leaders.
“We have the jobs that workers with papers don’t want to do
but we don’t have the support of the government that we need,” said
Miguel Morales, one of the members of the group.
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Translated from Spanish By Erica Pearson