Event includes strong LGBT representation with Rainbow LULAC members on the planning committee and CoH pastor on the speakers list
Organizers of the Sunday, April 9 Mega March in downtown Dallas are calling for immigration reform and an end to aggressive deportation efforts that have separated families in the wake of President Trump’s executive orders on immigration.
Line up for the march takes place at the Cathedral Shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe, 2215 Ross Ave. The march steps off at 2 p.m. and ends at Dallas City Hall around 5 p.m.
Participants are asked to dress in red, white or blue and will be grouped by color, according to Rainbow LULAC member Ray de los Santos, who is a Mega March organizer. He said for simplicity people who arrive early should wear red and will be up front.
Those arriving after noon should wear white and those not arriving until step-off time should wear blue. The idea is to a strong visual for cameras shooting the march from above, he explained.
Participants are also encouraged to bring American flags but not any other nation’s flags. However, internationally-recognized flags, such as the rainbow flag, are welcome to show solidarity between immigrants and groups like the LGBT community, de los Santos said.
The first Mega March took place in Dallas in 2006 when President George W. Bush was pushing immigration reform. That bill derailed when a poison pill amendment was added that would have made it a felony for a teacher who knew a student was undocumented or clergy who had that information about a parishioner not to disclose the information to authorities. They could have been charged with aiding and abetting.
While 2006 march organizers originally planned for about 50,000 marchers then increased their estimate to about 75,000 as the debate on immigration grew more contentious, some 500,000 people crowded into downtown Dallas for the event.
It was the largest civil rights march in Texas history.
Smaller Mega Marches took place in 2007 and 2010. For this year’s march, the goal is for 100,000 to participate.
The outreach for this year’s march extended beyond the Hispanic community. Several planning meetings were held at a mosque in Richardson and another at a synagogue. De los Santos said the South Asian community has also been part of the planning process.
“With Trump [in the White House], many constituencies have come together,” he said.
Speakers at this year’s march include Martin Luther King III and actors Danny Glover and Jamie Fox. Congressman Beto O’Rourke, who recently announced his plans to challenge Sen. Ted Cruz in the 2018 election, is on the schedule to speak along with fellow congressmen Marc Veasey and Joaquin Castro.
Added to the list of speakers this week was Cathedral of Hope Senior Pastor Neil Cazares-Thomas. Thomas was tapped as a speaker after former Atlanta mayor and U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young, who is 85, had to cancel his appearance because of a bout with pneumonia.
In addition to immigration reform and an end to aggressive deportation that has separated families and targeted Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals students — DREAMers — march organizers are calling for an end to executive orders that discriminate against Muslims because of their faith and for an end to hate crimes and hate speech that increased during the campaign and have gotten even more serious since the election.
Organizers noted that participating in the event should be safe for undocumented people. Homeland Security generally does not perform enforcement actions during public demonstrations such as a march, rally or parade.
Dallas Attorney Domingo Garcia said he learned in discussions with ICE that no agents would be present before or after the march either.
Marches come under the same rules as enforcements or arrests at schools including everything from daycares to colleges, at healthcare facilities, at places of worship or during religious or civil ceremonies or observances.
The Department of Homeland Security defines an enforcement as apprehending, arresting, interviewing or searching or surveilling an individual for enforcement purposes.
Garcia said for the 2006 march, the permit was for 20,000 people but half a million showed up. That march took place at the dawn of social media. He said he expects even more people to know about this march and, with the climate in Austin and Washington, more people will be motivated to participate.
“There’s a lot more energy and enthusiasm for this march across North Texas,” he said.
Because of traffic and limited parking, Garcia encouraged participants to ride DART to downtown for the march. Extra trains will be running on Sunday to accommodate expected heavy ridership. In addition, people coming from Tarrant County can take the Trinity River Express, which usually doesn’t run on Sundays but will be running this Sunday.
For those coming from out of town, there will be limited parking at Booker T. Washington High School in the Arts District and under Woodall Rodgers Freeway. However, a better option might be to park free at a DART station and take any line to the Pearl Street/Arts District Station.
Garcia said he’s seen more fear among immigrant communities since Trump’s election than he’s seen in the past.
“People are afraid to drive,” he said. “They’re afraid to take their kids to school. This isn’t what the Statue of Liberty stands for.”
In addition to sending a message to Washington about immigration reform, he said he hopes to send a message to Austin where the Texas Legislature is debating anti-sanctuary city bills and the governor has singled out Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez, threatening to withhold funds from Dallas. Dallas is not a sanctuary city and Valdez has turned immigrants over to ICE when they had felonies on their records.
Garcia called the effect of Trump administration rhetoric and threats from Gov. Greg Abbott “traumatic” to the immigrant community.
More information can be found at MegaMarch2017.com
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 7, 2017.