Immigration bills draw more peaceful protests

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SAN DIEGO (AP) – Thousands of students protesting tough immigration bills being debated in Congress marched in California, Texas, Nevada and other states Friday. Most demonstrations were peaceful, but there was a stabbing during a protest in Virginia.

The demonstrations coincided with the 79th anniversary of the birth of the late Cesar Chavez, the co-founder of the United Farm Workers union who became a champion of poor, Hispanic agricultural workers in the 1960s and ‘70s.

Students waved Mexican flags and signs saying “We are not criminals” as they demonstrated in San Diego’s Chicano Park. A police spokesman said there were 1,500 protesters, although earlier police estimates put the number as high as 4,000.

Students distributed leaflets explaining a provision of a bill approved in the House that calls for a sweeping crackdown on illegal immigration. Its prospects for becoming law are uncertain; at a summit in Cancun, Mexico, with his Mexican and Canadian counterparts, President Bush reiterated his support Friday for giving illegal immigrants the chance to work legally in the U.S.

Sheriff’s deputies monitored at least 200 students from north San Diego County high schools who walked to California State University, San Marcos.

About 1,000 students marched in Bakersfield, in California’s Central Valley. But there were no reports of walkouts in the giant Los Angeles Unified School District, where a week of youthful outcry began with tens of thousands of students leaving classes, triggering a police crackdown on truancy.

In Mira Loma, Calif., groups for and against the proposed legislation faced off in a noisy but peaceful confrontation on a street outside a Riverside County high school, police said.

“They were shouting at each other back and forth. About 10 deputies stood in the middle of the street to make sure nothing would happen,” sheriff’s spokesman Dennis Gutierrez said.

In Las Vegas, police and school officials said at least 3,000 students, drawn together by text messages and cell phone calls, left high schools, middle schools and a community college after the morning bell. They marched to the Las Vegas Strip and held demonstrations at downtown government buildings.

and a park.

“We’re not here to start trouble. We’re just here to work,” said Marcela Guevara, the 14-year-old daughter of Mexican immigrants.

One student was arrested for carrying a gun but no shots were fired, Las Vegas police Sgt. Chris Jones said.

A few miles away, U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales spoke at a meeting of Hispanic publishers. He told reporters the students would be better off letting their voices be heard after school and on weekends.

“The children need to stay in school,” Gonzales said.

As many as 3,000 people marched through downtown Fort Smith, Ark., while at least 2,000 protesters, most of them high school students, clogged streets in downtown El Paso, Texas, during a third day of protests there.

In Arizona, about 900 to 1,000 Tucson middle school students and another 300 high school students walked out of classes.

In Virginia’s Fairfax County, a high school student was stabbed during a protest that drew about 75 people Friday.

The 16-year-old boy was hospitalized with injuries that police said were not believed to be life-threatening. Two teenagers were arrested; police said they did not know whether the suspects had been among the protesters.

In Woodbridge, Va., a Hispanic second grader and kindergarten student were sent home from school for wearing homemade T-shirts that read “Latinos Forever” in Spanish. The elementary principal said he feared the T-shirts would be disruptive, given the widespread student protests.

“How is (a T-shirt) going to disrupt a kindergarten class?” asked Carmen Soriano, the younger boy’s mother.



Associated Press Writers Ken Ritter in Las Vegas and Alicia Caldwell in El Paso, Texas, contributed to this report.

AP-ES-03-31-06 2128EST

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