Denver student walkouts target Arizona and Colorado immigration laws

Students across the metro area will walk out of class today beginning at 1:30 p.m. and march to the west steps of the state Capitol to protest Arizona’s SB 1070, the new state law giving police the authority to detain people based on “reasonable suspicion” they may be in the country illegally.

“They’re letting our elected officials and our people who wish to become elected officials or candidates know that we’re not going to stand for this in this state and in this city, even though the precursor happened in the special session in 2006,” said community activist Rudy Gonzales, referring to the passage in Colorado of HB 1023. “Something as harsh as [Arizona’s] 1070 is not going to happen here; we’re going to do everything in our power to stop it.”

Colorado’s HB 1023 passed during the administration of Republican Gov. Bill Owens during a special session of the State Legislature in 2006, when U.S. Senate candidate Andrew Romanoff was Speaker of the House. It requires people to prove their “lawful presence” in the United States before receiving government services in Colorado.

“Many of our clients, the majority of them are immigrants and most of them are monolingual and would not be able to get services anywhere else due to what I call the foundational bill of 1023 in 2006 that was passed by Andrew Romanoff — the special session bill,” said Gonzales, who serves as executive director of Denver-based Servicios de la Raza, a nonprofit human service and advocacy agency. “For me that’s the foundation. The house that was built on it was 1070 in Arizona.”

SB 1070 has been blasted by immigrant rights groups in Colorado, and its backing by Republican politicians like gubernatorial candidate and former congressmen Scott McInnis has sparked outrage and concern that Colorado could see an economic backlash, along lines being erected now for Arizona, as politicians and rights groups call on companies to boycott the state.

“[The Arizona bill] is a house of arrogance, a house of indifference, a house of racism and definitely a house of misery and suffering,” Gonzales said. “As an organization we are adamantly against it. We strongly condemn and denounce the signing of the bill into law by [Arizona] Gov. Jan Brewer. We truly believe that no human being is illegal and at Servicios, humanity always trumps politics.”

Today’s student walkout in Denver will begin at four different staging areas between 1:30 and 2 p.m., Gonzales said: Viking Park at Speer Boulevard and Federal in northwest Denver; Lincoln High School at Evans and Federal in southwest Denver; Sunken Gardens at West High School in west Denver; and City Park at 17th and Josephine in east Denver. Demonstrators will then march to the west steps of the state Capitol at Colfax and Broadway.

Another demonstration is planned for Sunken Gardens at West High School at noon on Saturday, May 1.

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About the Author

David O. Williams

is an award-winning reporter who has covered energy, environmental and political issues for years. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Chicago Tribune and Denver Post. He's founder of Real Vail
and Real Aspen.

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