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By Jim Lane
The annual remembrance for Archbishop Arnulfo Romero on March 24 was smaller than usual. I charged it off to people being afraid. I had 250 copies of the weekly People's Weekly World that were left over from the peace rally the Sunday before. The peace rally had over 200 people, but it was the third day of cold rain, accumulating around 10 inches, and nobody was going to stop to take a copy of a newspaper in that, so I had a lot of papers left over.
Only about 15 showed up for the Archbishop, but the candle service was really nice and appropriate for this great martyr to peace. Still, I hated having extra newspapers. So, as soon as I could get free on Saturday, March 25, I went down to the immigrants' rights rally at Dallas City Hall Plaza. I couldn't find a place to park, so I drove down into the library basement and left a few papers in our rack down there, then lugged all my extra newspapers, including a few from the previous week, out of the library and across the street to City Hall.
People were walking by right on the corner, so I started handing out free copies. To my surprise, people were taking them out of my hand and even waiting in line to get one! They disappeared quickly, then I realized that around 500 people had already walked by me, about 8-9 people abreast. For the first time, I realized that I was witnessing one of the biggest public actions that have taken place in Dallas in the past 7 years! Come to think of it, that big one in 1999 was also an immigrants' rights march!
They were parading around the city hall plaza, about 2 city blocks on each side. In the middle, another 2-3 thousand people were gathered around to listen to loudspeakers. It was impossible to see who was talking, as they had no elevated stage. I was snapping photos and making recordings. I asked people how this big crowd had gathered, and they told me that the Spanish language radio and television stations had told them about it.
"We are the backbone of America!"
An amazing thing happened after one of the women speakers began calling for people to "hit the streets." A call to hit the streets is kind of common in public actions, so I'm sure she didn't mean for people to take her literally, but they did. Hundreds of people began peeling off from the City Hall Plaza and marching down Young Street. They filled the street and sidewalk for three blocks. I expected to go with them, but I was very aware that there could be big trouble with the police. It was extremely unlikely that the organizers had a street permit, and there were police cars all around.
Before the situation grew more serious, the frantic speakers, with the loudspeakers set at maximum, were able to call them back to the rally area. The incident showed that people are more than willing to take to the streets over the immigrants' rights issue, even in Dallas, Texas!
Finally, the speakers thanked everybody for coming and unplugged the speakers. A few marchers dwindled off. Many of them stayed.
Back at home, I began to hear the fantastic numbers, tens of thousands, marching all over the country!
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