“Let’s show them what real power looks like,” Mindy Navarro, a student at West High School, shouted into a megaphone as she stood in front of a group of hundreds gathered by the Capitol. “We are the 99 percent and we want immigration reform for all!”
Chanting in Spanish and English, students from West, East and La Follette High Schools walked out of class Monday and were quickly at the forefront of a city-wide protest entitled “Day Without Immigrants.” The protest attracted approximately 400-500 community members in total, according to Madison Police Department estimates.
The purpose of the protest, held on International Workers’ Day, was to “stop the attacks to our the poor, the immigrants, the refugees, the women, the environment, the public education, and a long list of important issues for most of us” and to show the importance of immigrants to the Madison community, according to its Facebook event.
People from Madison and across the area marched from various parts of the city and joined together at the Capitol, chanting “Education, not deportation,” “Sí, se puede” and “No ban, no wall.”
A small group, led by various socialist organizations, marched from Library Mall, while others came from Brittingham Park. But high school students, who flocked to the Square from all directions, brought the most energy.
Jessica Carrera, a student who walked out of East High School, echoed the sentiments of many protesters when she said she came to “support the workers, immigrants and students” who are affected by President Donald Trump’s administration.
José Antonio Campos, a junior at La Follette High School, said he and fellow students were at the protest because they “want to make a change.”
“We can’t be separated because of the law … we need to keep our families together,” Campos said. He also noted that about 50 La Follette students were at the protest, along with many more from other schools.
Other protesters left their workplaces to join the rally, some in groups. Alberto Lazarte, who works at Certco, Inc., said he and some of his coworkers thought the protest was important enough to take time off.
“There are like 35 people from my work here today,” Lazarte said. “Deportation, we don’t agree with that … [We’re here to] support the immigrants.”
The protest comes after last year’s “Day Without Latinos” rally, which fought for similar goals and attracted 20,000 people from across the state to Capitol Square.
Some passersby took pictures of the protest and cheered the protesters on. Others, however, were critical of the rally.
“I’ve seen the same thing unfold time and time again,” Michael Evans, a Madison resident, said. “You don’t see any significant change from something like this … you see protests come and go and they don’t manifest into anything.”
But protesters like Campos saw it differently.
“We want people to know that we’re together … we need to be together,” Campos said. “I’m here because I came to support my friends, myself, my family, my people.”
MPD officer Brian Chaney-Austin said the protest was peaceful and that there were “zero problems or issues to report.”
Gina Heeb contributed to this report.