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Crowds big at rallies across state

The Associated Press
Colorado State Patrol officers watch from the Capitol in Denver as tens of thousands rally in favor of immigration reform Monday. (Ed Andrieski/AP)
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After breaking for lunch Monday, some lawmakers stopped by to view the sea of white shirts outside the Capitol from the balcony outside the House chamber. It was hard to see any ground and the crowd stretched back into Civic Center Park.

“Unbelievable,” state Rep. Buffie McFayden, D-Pueblo West, said after climbing back inside. “It’s a very calm crowd.”

State Senate President Joan Fitz-Gerald said people participating in rallies across the country were speaking out for fair and responsible policies for immigrant workers. She welcomed the contribution of the “new generations” attracted to the immigration debate.

Hundreds of people stayed home from work Monday to march in Avon, though some participants said they knew others who were afraid to participate.

Juan Martinez of Avon said protesters want to see just immigration reform.

“We’re not against reform,” he said. “We just feel like what’s going on now isn’t the best for immigrants.”

Nearly a dozen leaders from the Hispanic community submitted 1,500 signed immigration rights petitions to the Grand Junction office of Sen. Wayne Allard, R-Colo., on Monday.

The petitions, signed during an April 10 rally that drew some 4,000 people, ask that federal lawmakers work to enact “just” immigration reform legislation. Ricardo Perez, a local organizer, said the petitions were offered as an opportunity for Allard to work with the Hispanic community on the Western Slope.

“It is important to work together with different groups and institutions, but if we need to go it alone, we will do it,” Perez said. “We only have our interests to change the immigration system.”

Derek Wagner, area director for the senator, said he would send along the box of petitions to Allard’s Washington office.

Hundreds of people marched for several blocks in Greeley, including mothers pushing strollers, fathers with toddlers on their shoulders and teens pumping their fists into the air.

The march went from Our Lady of Peace Catholic Church to a local park, where the crowd stood with posters bearing pictures of Hispanics in Iraq and signs that said “Jesus was an immigrant.”

“Everyone has a right to a real life. Everyone has rights,” said Christie Collins, 27, who joined the rally with her children. “The point of this country is to have a better life.”

About 70 percent of the work force stayed off the job Monday at the Gallegos Corp., a Vail-based masonry company that is considered a community leader in supporting immigrant workers.

Lisa Ponder, human resources director for the company, said the turnout was expected after Gallegos polled its 520 workers last week and allowed them to take the day off without pay.

Each summer, the company hires between 150 and 200 Mexican laborers on H2B work visas and provides them with housing and transportation in addition to jobs and standard benefits.

“We can’t get American workers,” Ponder said. “Let me tell you, if I could advertise and get American workers, I would do it.”

Joyce Illian of the Redstone General Store faced a steady line of customers looking for espresso, coffee and lattes Monday morning because the only other restaurant in town was closed in support of the rallies.

Illian, who was working alone, said she usually only sells one or two breakfast sandwiches on a given morning. On Monday, she had sold 10 and all the pastries she had. She was trying to prep for lunch.

“I’m just going to make sure I have a lot of lettuce cleaned and tomatoes sliced,” she said.

A few guests were staying at the Redstone Inn, but the kitchen was closed after six of its workers asked for the day off, general manager Debbie Strom said.

Thousands of advocates for illegal immigrants gathered in Memorial Park on Monday, calling for peaceful change to immigration policies and chanting “No somos criminales,” Spanish for “We are not criminals.”

At least 3,000 people arrived at the event by 1 p.m., The Gazette reported.

At least 15 counter-demonstrators were there, too, including one holding a sign that said “Only legal Americans have American rights.” An unidentified organizer asked the crowd to respect contrary messages.

“They can express themselves as they want to, of course,” he said. “We respect their rights and also we hope they respect ours.”

Organizers said they did not encourage a school or work boycott.

Nearly 200 people gathered at LaMont Does Park in Lafayette in support of “A Day Without Immigrants” on Monday.

Some speakers urged the crowd to vote this November against a statewide ballot initiative that would deny nonessential services to undocumented immigrants, chanting “defeat Defend Colorado” in a reference to a group backing the proposal.

The majority of the Lafayette crowd wore white in support of the cause, and many waved small American flags.

“I think this affects everybody in some way,” said Jose Rivas, a Centaurus High School senior at the rally. “I lot of kids I know are graduating and want to go to college but can’t because they are immigrants.”

Cocina Linda food stand owner Linda Illsley said her employees voted to stay open Monday, despite the nationwide marches and boycotts.

“For me, it’s about balance. I support what the boycott is trying to do, but the boycott is not about hurting people,” said Illsley, who was born and raised in Mexico.

Most businesses remained open along Durango’s Main Avenue, but Ben’s Burgers was closed and Wendy’s Restaurant was short-handed and closed its dining room.

Loveland wasn’t immune to employee walkouts Monday ” with many construction workers taking the day off.

About 100 construction workers ” 25 percent of the work force ” did not work at the Medical Center of the Rockies job site, Poudre Valley Health System spokesman Gary Kimsey said.

But project managers had anticipated the shortage and reallocated resources for the day. No punishment was expected for those who did not work in support of the nationwide boycott, Kimsey said.

“It’s kind of business as usual except there is a smaller work force,” he said.


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