The seventh annual May Day Solidarity March for immigrant rights wound its way from the heart of Milwaukee’s Latino community on the south side, through downtown and to the lakefront. Thousands, including Aztec dancers, drummers, women pushing strollers and union activists participated in a march that culminated in an emotional rally at Veterans Park.
The featured speaker at the rally was U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, a Democrat from Chicago.
Gutierrez, an outspoken national critic of current immigration policy, discussed the need to end what he called a cruel separation of families through deportation.
“We’re talking about kids who are being left without a father,” Gutierrez said.
Gutierrez also chided President Obama, saying he has yet to fulfill promises he made during his 2008 campaign to overhaul immigration policy.
But, like last year’s solidarity march, the prime target was Gov. Scott Walker, whose likeness was paraded around in the form of an oversized puppet.
Anti-Walker activists roamed the grounds, explaining to anyone who’d listen that the governor needs to go.
Refugio Herrera was participating in his third consecutive march along with his children.
“It’s important to be here because this is a way to unite our people and participate in the political process by protesting against Walker’s policies,” Rojas said in Spanish.
Primitivo Torres, president of Voces De La Frontera, the immigrant rights group that organized the march, explained that previous marches and grass-roots activism have had a political impact, pointing out that “an Arizona SB-1070-type bill” was rejected in Wisconsin.
Torres was referring to Assembly Bill 173, introduced by Rep. Don Pridemore (R-Hartford), which would have required state law enforcement officials to determine whether a person is in the country legally if he or she is arrested or charged with a crime or certain civil violations and they suspect the person is in the U.S. illegally.
“Last year, we had 100,000 marchers, and that’s one of the reasons we don’t have an Arizona copycat law in Wisconsin,” Torres said to the crowd.
Despite the union and political overtones of the event, the most visible signs at the march were those calling for an end to the separation of families.
Manuel Aparicio, who was born in Mexico and has participated in the march since its inception, said he was there because he wanted to see an end to the deportation of immigrants.
“They’re hurting our families by breaking us up.”