Thousands of People Protest Against Georgia Immigration Law

Thousands of marchers stormed the Georgia Capitol on Saturday to protest against the state’s new immigration law, which they think creates an unwelcome environment for people of color and those in search of a better life.

Thousands of people gathered in a march through downtown Atlanta in protest against Georgia's strict new immigration law on Saturday, July 2, 2011. Photo: John Mason/Flickr

Men, women and children of all ages gathered on downtown Atlanta for the march and rally. They cheered speakers while shading themselves with umbrellas and posters.

The crowd was estimated at between 8,000 and 14,000 by Capitol police and organizers. People filled the blocks around the Capitol, holding signs decrying House Bill 87 and reading “Immigration Reform Now!”

Friends Jessica Bamaca and Melany Cordero were at the crowd and held a poster that read: “How would you feel if your family got broken apart?”

Jessica Bamaca was born in the U.S., but her mother and sister are from Guatemala. She said that she fears they can be deported.

“I would be here by myself,” said Bamaca, 13. “I have a feeling (the governor) doesn’t know the pain affecting families. If he were to be in our position, how would he react?”

Azadeh of the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia called the rally inspiring and said she hoped lawmakers would recognize the law’s potential to damage the state.

“I think it’s going to have an impact,” Shahshahani said. “Unfortunately, the damage has already been done as far as people of color having second thoughts about moving to Georgia.”

Adelina Nicholls, executive director of the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights, said that the crowd tried to send a message.

“They are ready to fight,” Nicholls said. “We need immigration reform, and no HB87 is going to stop us. We have earned the right to be here.”

Several different groups stood within the largely Latino crowd, they included representatives from the civil rights movement.

The Rev. Timothy McDonald, an activist who supported immigration protesters, was among the speakers who were showing his solidarity.

“You are my brothers and my sisters,” McDonald told the crowd. “Some years ago, they told people like me we couldn’t vote. We did what you are doing today. We are going to send a message to the powers that be … that when the people get united, there is no government that can stop them. Don’t let them turn you around.”

Bellanira Avoytes came to the rally with her husband and three children. Although she is a legal resident and her children were born in Georgia, she does not see herself as separate from undocumented Latinos.

“I have family who are not residents,” she said. “I am together with the Latin people. I love Georgia. I have stayed here for 18 years. I want to buy a house here.”

MiLi Lai, a Chinese student at Emory, also attended the rally because the immigration law doesn’t just apply to Latinos, but “all non-American people.” Lai said: “We are the same community. We have to fight for our rights.”

Saturday’s rally follows a “day without immigrants” organized on Friday when some parts of the law took effect. It was organized by the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights. The organization emcouraged businesses to close and community members not to work or shop to show protest to the law.

On Monday, a judge temporarily blocked key parts of the law until a legal challenge is resolved. One provision that was blocked on Monday authorizes police to check the immigration status of suspects without proper identification. What is more, it authorizes them to detain illegal immigrants.

Another provision creates an immigration review board to investigate complaints about government officials not complying with state laws related to illegal immigration.

Parts of similar measures in Utah, Arizona and Indiana have also been blocked by the courts.

Provisions that took effect on Friday include one that makes it a crime to use false information or documentation when applying for a job.

Another provision penalizes people who knowingly and willingly transport or harbor illegal immigrants while committing another crime. [via Fox News Latino]

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