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Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson Reacts to Unprecedented Immigrant Rights March

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In Salt Lake City, as many as 25,000 people took to the streets on Sunday to march for immigrants rights in what may have been Utah’s largest demonstration ever. We speak with Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson. [includes rush transcript]

In Salt Lake City, as many as 25,000 people took to the streets on Sunday to march for immigrants rights in what may have been Utah’s largest demonstration ever. Thousands marched from City Hall to the State Capitol. The protests continued for a second day Monday as several thousand people rallied at City Hall.

We go now to Salt Lake City to speak with Mayor Rocky Anderson. He took part in Sunday’s demonstration and was one of the speakers at the rally.

  • Mayor Rocky Anderson, of Salt Lake City.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We go now to Salt Lake City to speak with the mayor, Rocky Anderson, who took part in Sunday’s demonstration, one of the speakers at the rally. Welcome to Democracy Now!, Mayor Anderson.

MAYOR ROCKY ANDERSON: Good morning, Amy and Juan.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the significance of this? How many people did you expect to come out?

MAYOR ROCKY ANDERSON: Well, I heard that they were expecting between 3,000 and 10,000. And when they say upwards of 25,000, I would say far more than that. It was absolutely the most incredible thing. Without a doubt, the largest demonstration by many, many times that we’ve ever seen here in Salt Lake City.

AMY GOODMAN: And your sense of what has spurred this enormous outpouring in your city? And we’re getting the same reports in St. Paul and in Omaha, in all of these cities where we’re getting the largest protests, public protests that these cities have ever had.

MAYOR ROCKY ANDERSON: Well, I think it’s a real coming together of people who feel so strongly that, first of all, there are a lot of people whose lives are going to be thrown into total chaos and upheaval if some of the members of the House of Representatives have their way and turn their presence in this country into felonies and they start mass deportations.

We’ve already seen some very unfortunate situations of selective enforcement of our immigration laws. We had a raid on our airport three months after 9/11, where people who essentially — and we need to be honest about this. Our nation really has encouraged people to come from other countries to work at certain kinds of jobs. And, unfortunately, we had some people who didn’t have proper documentation who were working at our airport in those kinds of jobs, but because they are in restricted areas, they were indicted by a grand jury. The U.S. Attorney moved forward. They spent some three weeks putting together the investigation indictments, which makes me wonder how this relates to homeland security, when we simply could have gone out and told them if they have any documentation problems, they’d better quit their jobs and go find something else to do. But 63 of them ended up being incarcerated, prosecuted.

There was one family that I dealt with very closely. He had been here with his wife and two children. He was a good hardworking, peaceful man, tremendous family commitment, wanted better for his family, like the history of most immigrants in this country. And after his third child was born, and while he was awaiting the federal process, his daughter had to quit high school to go to work to help the family. Now, how does this help anybody? And, ultimately, after his third child was born, he was forced to leave the country, leaving his three children, his wife here so that they could pursue the American dream. That’s just wrong. That’s so counter to everything that this country stands for.

And I think, getting back to your original question, there’s so many people that understand this tremendous tragedy that could befall so many people who have added so much to our country, and I think they also recognize that there’s a real window of opportunity. It’s very much like the momentum leading toward the Civil Rights Acts.

AMY GOODMAN: Mayor Anderson, speaking of the Civil Rights Movement, we’re joined by Reverend Lawton Higgs, who is chaplain of the Birmingham chapter of Southern Christian Leadership. That’s Birmingham, Alabama. He protested in Washington, D.C., and a while ago and this weekend in Birmingham, Alabama. Welcome to Democracy Now!, Reverend Higgs. Can you talk about the protests now around immigration and the Civil Rights Movement that you participated in 40 years ago?

REV. LAWTON HIGGS: Sure. It was an exciting experience to participate, you know, with the struggle of African Americans for full citizenship and liberty and justice here in Birmingham. And the fruits of the Civil Rights Movement are a glorious contribution to our country. We thank God for Fred Shuttlesworth and the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., and it was exciting this past Sunday afternoon to walk into Kelly Ingram Park under the statue of Martin King as another group of persons who have been brought into America to work here and are struggling for full human rights and civil rights and citizenship in America. It was a beautiful experience.

AMY GOODMAN: How many people turned out?

REV. LAWTON HIGGS: Well, there were about 3,000 or so people here, and I understand this morning, I heard on the news there were 5,000 in another city here in Northwest Alabama, and a lot of energy about that. And this whole movement, as I have participated in it and given support as an ally for immigrants and other people struggling for justice, has the same goals that, you know, the Civil Rights Movement had, and that was enfranchisement, full citizenship, participating in our culture.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you both for being with us, as we do this roundup of protests all over this country. I want to thank Reverend Lawton Higgs, chaplain of Birmingham chapter of the SCLC, Southern Christian Leadership Conference; and Mayor Rocky Anderson of Salt Lake City in Utah. We will, of course, continue to cover this unprecedented wave of protest. These are not just the largest immigrant right protests in this country, but the largest protests on any issue in the history of the United States of America.

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Immigrant Rights Marches Likened to Second Civil Rights Movement

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