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William Topel
For Columnist Guild News Bureau
Anchorage, AK
May 2, 2006

(Anchorage, Alaska) The largest city in Alaska had its own pro-illegal immigrant rally on May 1, the traditional Socialist holiday. Advertised as a "Peace Rally", the demonstration was to start at 5 PM while the gusty winds kept the 50 degree Fahrenheit temperature cooler than the sunny day would have been otherwise. The protestors were small in numbers initially but grew to between 250-300 by the 7 PM closing, by this reporter's estimate.

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On Anchorage's Park Strip underneath the U.S. Flag dedicated to military veterans, small white signs in English & Spanish were prevalent. "Si Se Puede" ("Yes We Can") was the most prominent, along with "Yes to the Dream Act", referring to proposed Senate bills authorizing amnesty & an expanded guest worker program to illegal immigrants, & "No to H.R. 4437", referring to the House bill that passed in April. An American Friends Service Committee (Quaker) poster was paraded by a scheduled speaker.

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p3a.jpg - 8832 BytesThere were mostly American flags present but a larger Mexican flag could be spotted. The crowd was about 1/3 children & teenagers shouting "Si Se Puede" all during the rally.

Local TV channels KTUU 2 (NBC affiliate) & KTVA 11 (CBS affilate) were visible with their video cameras and a reporter for Anchorage's only daily newspaper was taking notes.

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Before the speakers began, event organizer Daniel Esparza told a Democratic Party volunteer to take down his large Alaska Democratic Party banner he was erecting next to a Voter Registration table.

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The speakers began at 6:05 PM with Master of Ceremonies (M.C.) Angelina Estrada-Burney of the Hispanic Affairs Council of Alaska (HACA) greeting the crowd & ultimately leading the Pledge of Allegiance & the National Anthem, all in English.

The next speakers were Norma Lucero, also of HACA, and Lee Stephan, CEO of the Eklutna Village Corp. The latter remarked, "Treat everybody with dignity & respect or go back where you came from", referring to all immigrants who came to North America to live with indigenous native peoples.

The invocation was given by father Don Bramble of the Holy Family (Catholic) Cathedral. He was followed by Robin Bronen, an immigration attorney, who said they were seeking "fairness for undocumented youth & farm workers, too." She wants "no militarized borders" and "no city or state police to enforce immigration laws." She demanded Congress "heed our pleas for equitable inclusion into our society."

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Mara Kimball, also an immigration lawyer & wife of Ethan Berkowitz, liberal Democratic state legislator, read prepared remarks by her husband who was absent campaigning for Governor.

Marvin Jones, President of the Hotel & Restaurant Union Local 878 spoke. Then Simon Hernandez sang a mariachi song is Spanish. Father Jose Sanchez-Salcedo, of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish (Catholic), followed with remarks only in Spanish.

Two unlisted "members of the community" also spoke. Ugo Flores said, "No son criminales" (we are not criminals") & Maria Soto gave their remarks only in Spanish.

Before introducing the closing speaker, the M.C. said they counted 1,000 attendees, which garnered a loud applause. Daniel Esparza gave his closing remarks in Spanish.

When asked if he was pleased with the attendance of the rally, organizer Esparza answered, "Very happy. We expected 600 people. It's beautiful."

Two anti-illegal immigration protestors were visible with their signs. One of them was a member of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, a volunteer border patrol group that monitors illegal border crossings. With Alaska's 600,000 population it's estimated there are between 5,000-6,000 illegal immigrants.

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After the final speaker, the protestors marched around the sidewalk that borders the grassy Park Strip section, shouting, "Si Se Puede".

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