October 3, 1996…..B1
By Anna Borgman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Latino leaders began a 10-day countdown yesterday to a Columbus Day march on Washington, unveiling a seven-point platform on Latino and immigrant rights that includes a call for a simpler citizenship process and a $7 minimum wage.
During a news conference yesterday in the basement of a Mount Pleasant church, march organizers declined to estimate how many people they would bring. They said the march is supported by more than 1,000 Latino organizations across the country and has been endorsed by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, national Latino civil rights groups and the U.S Catholic Conference.
Juan Jose Gutierrez, an immigrant advocate from Los Angeles, said the march and its platform are intended to help unite the often divided Latino community to "stop the tide of anti-immigrant abuse."
Planning for the march began three years ago when California voters were debating Proposition 187. That ballot initiative, passed in 1994 but still stalled in the courts, would deny education and public services to the children of illegal immigrants.
Gutierrez and other activists called Latinos the country's newest scapegoats and criticized the immigration bill signed this week by President Clinton as "Draconian" and "dangerous."
Jaime Martinez, a union organizer in Texas, said about 4,000 marchers will be coming from Houston on 80 buses and about 1,000 people from San Antonio on 15 buses. Dallas and Austin each are sending five buses, and South Texas is sending three buses, Martinez said.
The Texas marchers plan to hold demonstrations in Austin and Little Rock on their way to Washington, he said.
In New York, organizers said that they knew of at least 50 buses leaving for Washington early the day of the march but that other buses were being chartered by various groups throughout the city's five boroughs. In Chicago, organizers said they had chartered 10 buses and were consider Bring chartering more.
March organizers said that they have arranged for buses to park at Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium and that marchers will take the Metro to the U Street-Cardozo station.
The march will begin at 8 a.m. Oct. 12 in Meridian Hill Park, also known as Malcolm X Park, at 16th and Euclid streets NW. It will follow 16th Street to H Street, turn west for a block to 17th Street and continue south around the White House to the Ellipse.
Gutierrez said each of seven speakers will focus on one of the seven planks in the platform: human and constitutional rights for all;: equal opportunities and affirmative action; free public education for all; expansion of health services; citizen police review boards; labor law reform and a $7-an-hour minimum wage; and a streamlined citizenship application process and the extension of amnesty for those who entered the United States before 1992.
Organizers said the speakers will include Raul Yzaguirre, of the National Council of La Raza; Rep. Henry B. Gonzalez (D-Tex.); Rep. Nydia M. Velazquez (D-N.Y.), the first Puerto Rican woman to serve ID Congress; and labor union executive Linda Chavez-Thompson, of San Antonio. Entertainers will include actor Edward James Olmos, comedian Cheech Marin, singer and actor Ruben Blades, actress Rita Moreno and musicians Carlos Santana and Willie Colon.
Several African Americans have agreed to share the podium with Latinos, including Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.).
In the District, students at Bell Multicultural High School have been canvassing Latino neighborhoods to publicize the march. Mauricio Gamero 17, a senior who came from El Salvador when he was 2, said he was surprised at how many people told him they were afraid to attend because they thought there might be a huge immigration raid.
"People don't want to be exposed," Gamero said.
At the news conference, Gutierrez and District activists offered reassurance to those who might be concerned about attending the march. "To the best of my knowledge, the great majority of the American public does not support a fascist police state," Gutierrez said. "Everybody should come fully confident that there will be absolutely no problems of any type."
Martinez said Latinos in different parts of the country are calling the march by different names, including the "freedom march" and the "march for justice."
"This march will be in the spirit of Dr. King, in the spirit of Cesar Chavez," Martinez said.