Latino youth stage peaceful demonstration
March 31, 2006
In a protest that could be the largest this town has ever seen, more than 250 Latino teenagers from South Tahoe High School and South Tahoe Middle School marched along Highway 50 on Friday in support of immigrants.
The students waved large American and Mexican flags and chanted “Si se puede” or “Yes, we can” while marching from the “Y” to Taqueria Jalisco across from Tahoe Daily Tribune offices.
The teens cheered as cars honked on their way by, and held signs that said “We have a dream” and “Liberty and justice for all.” They wore white, which stood for peace, organizers said.
Young immigrants came out in force throughout the country again on Friday to protest proposed immigration laws now before Congress.
Latino teenagers have been passionate because of their special situation: a minor cannot apply for citizenship. Their parents, who are often illegal, must apply for them and are often too intimidated to do so.
The student organizers told the Tribune on Wednesday they acknowledge there are problems with the present system, but thought the solution should not be jail time, but rather a less intimidating and expensive road to citizenship.
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“We haven’t done anything wrong, we just want to work and have a good future like anyone who has a dream in America,” said Alfredo Solorio, a junior and goalie for the high school’s Nevada State champion soccer team this year. He could be heard shouting directions to the group that marched on Friday.
Organizer Ernesto Medina said Friday’s protest was meant to be all-inclusive, and respectful of America and all immigrants. They also did not want the school system to lose money, so most came to school, checked out for the demonstration, and returned to school later in the day.
Alvaro Mariscal was one of several leaders who helped keep younger middle-school children on the sidewalk during the protest. He said most of the parents and teachers have been supportive and proud of their efforts.
“Latinos make up 25 percent of California’s population, so we can definitely make a difference,” he said.
Eighth grader Marshall Martin, 13, was assigned to be a leader of the middle-school children. Although white, he said he came out “to represent.”
“There are a lot of hard workers here and a lot of good people out there that need to stay,” Martin said.
Former high school teacher Tere Tibbetts also watched from the sidelines. She said many of the students also work full-time and she was proud to see them out having a voice.
“They are a strong backbone of our community,” Tibbetts said. “To know them is to love them.”
Friday’s crowd was composed almost entirely of young people, with two Latina women who looked like mothers bringing up the rear.
A police car followed the demonstrators the entire way.
“They were surprisingly well-mannered and did a good job of policing themselves,” said Scott Willson, school resource officer for South Lake Tahoe Police Department. “I didn’t expect them to be so well organized.”
About 400 Latino students attend the high school.
The middle school’s principal Jackie Nelson said 100 to 115 students signed out with parental permission slips, while high school principal Marcia Kaster said they had a stack of between 150 to 175 permission slips. Signatures on the slips were compared with parental signatures on other school documents, Nelson said.
The principals said the schools did not endorse the demonstration. In fact, parents received a phone message from school officials last week encouraging their children to attend school Friday.
Kaster said they were concerned over the children’s safety and breathed a sigh of relief when they heard things went well.
“The kids were mature enough and they had an understanding of how to do things peaceably,” Kaster said. “Young people need to feel they are listened to. Now we hope they channel their energy into a great letter-writing campaign.”