Protestors March to #DefendDACA in MacArthur Park
Five days after President Donald J., Trump’s decision to end DACA, local communities in Los Angeles, California continued to vent their frustrations. With hundreds of demonstrators in attendance, the March to #DefendDaca was the most prominent, taking place at MacArthur Park this Sunday, September 12th.
Protestors started to gather at 3:00 pm in MacArthur Park. Tensions were high even before the rally began at the intersection of South Alvarado Street and West 6th Street, where Trump supporters and marchers yelled at each other from different sides of the intersection. The counter-protestors insisted that the demonstrators accept that Trump is their president. The DACA supporters answered back with profanities in Spanish such as “Culero!”
Not comfortable with sharing his full name, Alex V. told the Corsair he came to support his cousin, a DACA recipient and UC Berkeley alumni who currently works as an architect. He addressed the counter-protestors, who were then chanting "Trump!" towards bystanders. “You still have people like that over there thinking that everybody else has to pay for my cousin to be here, when she’s paying for it herself,” said Alex. “She pays $100,000 plus in school in tuition, but might still get deported… it’s not fair.”
At around 3:15 pm, Marcos Aguilar, alongside the Semillas Del Pueblo dancers, began leading the 1.7-mile march down Alvarado Street towards Echo Park Lake. Aguilar is the co-founder and Executive Director of Semillas Sociedad Civil, an indigenous Mexican public charter school in Los Angeles, California. “Today's a movement, to represent the fact that indigenous peoples, whether we only arrived 10 years ago or we arrived fifteen years ago from our homelands, are indigenous to the entire continent,” said Aguilar.
The marchers then arrived at Echo Park Lake, surrounding a small clearing where the speakers were to voice their personal stories. They each made their case, speaking against the president’s ceasing of the DACA program and conveying their support for the entire immigrant community. One speaker was most noticeably affected by the White House’s decision to end the program.
32-year-old Ludi Valdez, a graduate student at USC studying social work, told her own personal account of her struggles in maintaining her athletic scholarship and grades as an undocumented immigrant. Expanding on her story, Valdez explained that she went to Orange Coast Community College before transferring to Cal State Long Beach on an athletic scholarship. Although Valdez was a multi-state champion at cross country in community college, she said the lack of awareness regarding students like her back then led to many making her feel ashamed and guilty about her status. Her personal experiences led her to start advocating for immigration reform through participating and speaking at events like this "March to #DefendDaca".
When asked about Trump’s claim of wanting comprehensive immigration reform, Valdez said his public statements of supporting DREAMers was hypocritical given his decision to end DACA. “Maybe he wants to please his base, but also keep us maybe living in a fantasy, in a dream,” Valdez said. “He wants us to keep dreaming. And unfortunately, we no longer believe his actions, nor do we believe his words. It was totally unnecessary for him to end DACA. He didn’t need to.”
After the round of speakers finished their speeches, the second phase of the march began, as marchers started heading east on Sunset Blvd towards Downtown Los Angeles. At this stage, the wide variety of groups marching started to openly show their support for each other’s goals, with people chanted blended messages like “All the walls have got to go, from Palestine to Mexico!”
Even people like 24-year-old Brian Ritzi, whose family or friends were not directly affected by DACA, were in attendance. “Think of the hundreds of thousands of people who are our neighbors, that are potentially going to be ripped from their homes,” said Ritzi. “That tearing apart of our community affects everybody.” Ritzi also cites that his Christian beliefs bring him to support the cause, expressing sadness towards much his fellow Christians’ opposing views. Ritzi says, “I think the Gospel is clear that you’re supposed to welcome people who are different from you, and I think a lot of people’s conservatism has overwritten what their faith teaches.”
The march moved towards its final destination, Pueblo de Los Ángeles, an iconic historical district that has Hispanic roots dating back to the early 1800s. With the march going past its planned end time of 7:00 pm, demonstrators started to flow away from the rally in all directions, with many exploring the various historic buildings around the district. The hundreds of protestors reduced in number to a few dozen that persisted, intent on listening until the end. Yet the speakers continued on, demanding that all undocumented immigrants should be respected, and showing their understanding of what their fellow DACA members and their families are going through.
As the event came to a close, the speakers blared the song “Los Illegales”. As the song started to end, the remaining protestors began to leave, while one of the main organizers, Yolanda Gonzalez, continued to chant the march’s main message - “The people united, will never be divided.”