by Fidel "Butch" Montoya
Thousands of marchers came from across the USA to march on May 29th in Phoenix, Arizona. It was pegged as one of the largest marches in the history of Phoenix as tens of thousands braved the dry hot conditions to march against injustice and racism. Viewing video from several news media sources, it was clear this was a mega march against SB 1070, supported by 100,000 marchers.
Pastor Eve Nunez, a Latina Evangelical pastor from Phoenix told me that she has marched from the early days with Cesar Chavez, and this was the biggest march she has seen in Phoenix. This is coming from someone who has committed her ministry to seeking justice and fighting unjust laws.
Pastor Nunez told me, “I have been in every Marcha since the 70s with Cesar. I asked police officers present (about the number of marchers), they said at least One Hundred Thousand. The Organizer Salvador Reza from Puente told me he believes there was more. This was the most Hispanic Clergy,” present in a march in Phoenix.
Yet if you read news accounts of the march, some news outlets estimated the crowd at 10,000. Others simply said, “Thousands marched against SB 1070.” The Los Angeles Times did try to estimate the crowd, one of the few to do so, but still did not give a figure. “Under a broiling desert sun, tens of thousands of protesters on Saturday slowly marched five miles to the state Capitol to rally against Arizona's controversial new immigration law. There was no official crowd estimate, but the march was by far the biggest demonstration since Gov. Jan Brewer signed SB 1070 into law on April 23.”
Reading the New York Times, the reporter appeared to try and present “a balanced approach” to the story. “Two sides of the immigration debate converged here Saturday: a throng of several thousand marching for five miles opposed to Arizona’s new immigration law, and several thousand nearly filling a nearby stadium in the evening in support of it.”
Why is the news media attempting to down play the number of over 100,000 people who marched on May 29th in Phoenix? It seems very odd to me that the news media went out of it way to discount the tens of thousands who marched for several miles to the State Capitol building.
Without a doubt, the news media can influence the outcome of a major mega march like the one in Phoenix. Readers and viewers who depend on these news outlets for news and information also expect for the reporters on the scene to be accurate and truthful, not just giving their opinions of what they believe actually happened. When reporters fail to accurately report the facts of a major march like the one in Phoenix, the credibility of these reporters becomes suspect.
Pastor Nunez felt strongly that it was the largest march she has seen in Phoenix and seemed perplexed by the low estimate by the news media. Aerial video of the march on CNN clearly showed that tens of thousands of people participated in the march. From viewing the video, it was clear to me that more than 10,000 people were marching. Even several police officers present at the march told Pastor Nunez that it appeared that there were 100,000 marchers on the streets of Phoenix.
Julie Gonzales, one of Colorado’s best organizers for immigration reform did attend the march in Phoenix. I asked her what she thought about the number of people who marched the 5.7 miles in the heat. “Yes, it was absolutely over 10.000. I was about 15 blocks away from my friend who was much closer to the front of the march, and I then turned around and I still couldn't see the end of the march. And we're talking both sidewalks full of people. It wasn't just people in the street, or on one lane. It was building to building full of people.”
Gonzales did admit that she could not estimate the crowd, but did say, “I can't really speak to whether it was 50 or 100 or 200 thousand. All I know is that it was massive.” But she also made it clear that it was far more than the 10,000 reported by some news media outlets.
The New York Daily News reported, “Thousands of civil rights and labor activists from across the United States – carrying banners that read:
“Obama Keep Your Promise” – rallied in Phoenix to protest the law, which requires state and local police to investigate the immigration status of people they suspect are in the country illegally.” Again, the newspaper reporter made no attempt to estimate the crowd, just the word,
Pablo Alvarado of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, one of the primary organizers of the mega march on May 29th, in an email to supporters of the march wrote, “This weekend 100,000 people marched six miles from Steele Indian School Park to the State Capitol to denounce SB 1070 and demand President Obama intervene in the growing human rights crisis of Arizona.”
It is unfortunate that the news media reporting on the march did not report on the actual number of people who came from across the country to protest a law that has created what Alvarado calls, “the growing human rights crisis of Arizona.”
Let me be very clear about one issue. It is not just about the number of people who marched, but about the number of people who came out on a very hot day to demand that SB 1070 be reversed and taken off the books as a hateful and illegal profiling law.
The fact that 100,000 people came together in the streets of Phoenix should serve notice that many thousands of people are opposed to this law. The accurate reporting on the events of the day should reflect the fact that thousands of people, 100,000 of them, were willing to travel to Phoenix and march demanding that President Obama intervene in this issue and challenge the law in the courts.
It is time that the news media report accurately the fact the “civil rights movement of the 21st century” is a real a movement and it is only beginning to grow. Pastor Nunez mentioned that this was the first time that many members of the Hispanic clergy marched along the throngs of marchers demanding justice and righteousness.
Under the leadership of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, more and more Latino faith leaders are voicing their opposition to the immoral and illegal law that allows police officers to profile any “brown person” whom they “reasonably suspect” might be an undocumented immigrant in the country illegally.
Already, many “brown” American citizens are being detained and put in detention facilities because police officers are not trained properly to determine who is illegal and who just because of their “Latino features” are immediately suspected as being illegal.
This is what brought over 100,000 to the streets of Phoenix on May 29th. This is what is causing the Latino clergy to understand that a prophetic and voice of spiritual leadership is needed today just as the Dr. Martin Luther King brought to the early civil rights movement. More and more national Latino spiritual faith leaders are demanding that we stand together in the face of hate and discrimination that has sprouted an ugly racist movement against Latinos.
In the future, one would trust that the news media would do a better job reporting on the nature of the event, highlighting the fact that the largest march against SB 1070 took place with over 100,000 marchers demanding justice and due process. The May 29th march was not just another march or civic expression of frustration and fear.
This is just the beginning of a new civil rights movement, one that is partnering with Black leaders who marched during past civil rights demonstrations demanding justice and equality.
Together, we will bring Arizona to its knees, either by showing that a national boycott will cause unprecedented financial ramifications to the state economy, or to its knees asking forgiveness for being so open with their hate and bigotry toward Latinos.
Fidel "Butch" Montoya is Director of H.S. Power and Light Ministries - Latino Faith Initiative. He was the Vice President/News Director of KUSA - TV Channel 9 News from 1985-1990, and worked at the news station for 24 years. Montoya also served as Deputy Mayor of City and County of Denver from 1995-1999; as the Manager of Public Safety for the City and County of Denver from 1994-2000. Montoya was Licensed to preach in 1972. He serves on the Executive Council for the Hispanic Coalition for Comprehensive Immigration Reform.