Protesters seek to disrupt Arizona’s struggling economy

Thousands of protesters gathered in Phoenix Saturday morning to march on the Capitol and voice their opposition toward the state’s new immigration law.  Many protesters also partook in a campaign to boycott Arizona businesses.

Boycott participants refused to use certain Arizona-based products and services, hoping to send a message to the state’s Legislature by directly affecting the economy.

While the boycott may have adverse effects on the state’s struggling economy, those in opposition of SB 1070 —a law that makes illegal immigration a state crime—said such actions are necessary to invoke change.

OPPOSING THE LAW: Protesters of all ages against SB-1070 waved American, Arizona and Mexican flags in front of the state Capitol Saturday morning. (Photo by Scott Stuk)

Pablo Alvarado, president of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, said peaceful resistance is a strong weapon in political battles.

“I don’t know whether we are going to be able to maintain a boycott on a long-term basis, but definitely the message has been sent,” Alvarado said. “Over 20 conferences have been canceled, and tons of cities have resolutions against this bill.”

Alvarado said the boycott may be damaging to the state’s economy, but added that people in the community are under siege and have the right to strike back.

“We have to punish our adversaries, and that’s what the people are doing,” Alvarado said.

Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon, who spoke at the rally, urged those who would partake in the boycott to wait for the state and federal governments to act before fully committing.

“Let the courts stop this law,” Gordon said, “and then we’ll get the federal government to … take immigration back over and get comprehensive immigration reform.”

Gordon said the boycott is punishing everyone in the state, not just those who pushed the law through.

“It’s hurting children, it’s hurting immigrants, it’s hurting seniors and it’s hurting individuals who are trying to help,” Gordon said. “Don’t play into what those individuals that have passed this law want. They want this disharmony, they want this disruption.”

Alvarado said the National Day Laborer Organizing Network — who organized the rally and march along with Puente Arizona, a human rights organization spear-heading the anti-SB 1070 movement — is working on a method for companies that oppose the immigration law to be identified by shoppers who participate in the boycott.

“We are creating a ‘human rights zone,’ and all of those [sympathetic] businesses are going to be hit in the next few weeks,” Alvarado said. “And those businesses are going to have a sticker that says … ‘This is a human rights zone, come and sponsor this business.’”

For the thousands of protesters from different states who have traveled to Arizona, Alvarado said his organization collaborated with Puente Arizona to organize housing arrangements. Protesters who didn’t want to stay in hotels were connected with Arizonans who had volunteered spare beds and couches for travelers to sleep on.

ASU graduate and entrepreneur Vanessa Montes said it is hard to participate in the boycott because her businesses lose money.

“When there are marches like this, we close our stores,” Montes said, who owns six Five Star Cellular stores in the Valley. “It’s a matter of priorities, which is the reason why I’m here today.”

Montes said she hopes the bill will be overturned, or else she might have to start looking at other locations to run her business.

“My business is 90 percent Hispanic,” Montes said. “Right now, as it is, we’re looking at other states to go to. … A lot of clientele and a lot of family are looking to move if this law takes effect.”

Reach the reporter at joseph.schmidt@asu.edu