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CURRENT ISSUE:  May 8, 2006 • VOL. 44, NO. 9 • Oakland, CA

May 1 rallies draw huge crowds
in support of immigrants’ rights

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Calls for a work, school and shopping boycott -- combined with broader calls to rallies and prayer services -- drew millions across the country May 1 in support of immigration reform during a second day of major activities in less than a month.

Throughout the East Bay, Catholics joined in demonstrations calling for the protection and rights of immigrants, including those who do not have legal documentation. Bishop Allen Vigneron spoke at an evening rally at Oakland’s San Antonio Park that was coordinated by Father Antonio Valdivia, pastor of St. Louis Bertrand Parish, and Father Jesus Nieto, pastor of St. Anthony Parish.

He also sent words of support to more than 8,000 people who marched through Concord to St. Francis of Assisi Church, where an evening prayer service was held.

“I join with you in solidarity from our prayer vigil in Oakland … as we celebrate this feast of St. Joseph the Worker,” he said in a statement read by Father Richard Mangini, pastor of St. Bonaventure Parish, to the crowd assembled at St. Francis of Assisi. “May God bless our leaders with a vision of justice and human dignity as they work to reform our nation’s immigration laws.”

The Concord march and vigil were organized by parish leaders in conjunction with CCISCO, an ecumenical community action group.
That morning in Richmond, thousands gathered at Civic Center Plaza after walking from St. Paul Church in San Pablo and St. Mark and St. Cornelius churches in Richmond. Their demonstration continued to the BART station where they caught trains for San Francisco to join the massive demonstration taking place at Justin Herman Plaza.

BOCA, a coalition of churches in Berkeley, encouraged its members to join the activities in San Francisco, where a massive crowd packed Market Street for the observance billed across the nation as “A Day Without Immigrants.”

In Philadelphia, Cardinal Justin Rigali celebrated a Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul, in which he emphasized the U.S. history of welcoming immigrants.

The nation has offered people fleeing conditions of poverty and persecution and other difficult situations “relief and opportunity, freedom and justice,” Cardinal Rigali said in his homily. “Above all it has recognized and sustained their human dignity and given them the opportunity to enjoy the blessings of God to provide for their family and to transmit these blessings to us.”

The May 1 events followed April 10’s rallies and marches, which also drew hundreds of thousands of people in cities and towns large and small.

The events are organized by local groups. They have the central focus of calling on Congress to adopt legislation that helps some of the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in the country to legalize their status and clear up the complex, backlogged system for legal immigration. Legislation has been stalled in the Senate.
The House passed a bill in December that, among other things, would dramatically expand immigration enforcement and would criminalize the act of being in the country illegally. It currently is only a violation of civil law. Opposition to that bill has been a rallying cry for many people.

Calls to boycott work and school by some activists were opposed by some of the country’s most prominent Catholic leaders, including Los Angeles Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, who has been among the most outspoken church leaders advocating for comprehensive immigration reform.

He encouraged people to stay at work and school May 1 and to join activities scheduled for later in the day.

Los Angeles was the scene of two major demonstrations. Police estimated that a morning march to City Hall drew 250,000 people. A second march at 4 p.m. along Wilshire Boulevard drew an estimated 400,000 people.


Thousands march along Monument Blvd. in Concord to St. Francis of Assisi Church, May 1, for a prayer service and rally acknowledging the contributions of immigrants to the economic, social and civil life of the United States.


Father Bernardino Andrade, a native of Portugal and pastor of St. Anthony Parish in Oakley, shows his delight with Julia Baños of Queen of All Saints Parish as she leads the crowd in chants during the Concord rally for immigrants.


Thousands of marchers demonstrate for immigrants’ rights during an evening rally and vigil in Concord that included Scripture readings, prayers, and statements of solidarity.



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