Hundreds of students and local residents protested Friday near the Downtown campus against Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s tactics to curtail illegal immigration in Arizona.
About 600 people congregated at Phoenix’s Civic Space Park near Central Avenue and Van Buren Street as part of the “Action” portion of a yearly conference sponsored by national civil rights group Movimiento Estudiantíl Chicano de Aztlán, or MEChA.
“Our goal is to make a statement and to let people know we are here,” said Jose Rios, a communications senior and member of MEChA’s ASU student chapter.
Protesters carried banners, posters and 5-foot puppets used to enact one of Arpaio’s “round-ups,” where he and his deputies choose a public location, such as store or restaurant, and arrest illegal immigrants in the area.
Hundreds of college students across the nation attended the MEChA conference, located in a different city each year. ASU’s MEChA chapter helped host this year’s conference from March 22-25 at the Downtown campus.
MEChA is a student organization promoting higher education, culture and history and use political involvement to create change in the Latino community.
Students attended conference workshops and sessions with keynote speakers correlating with this year’s theme: “Mind. Body. Soul.” Students learned how to grow, adapt and respond to the oppression they face in their communities.
The organization also picks one action to focus on annually, and MEChA chose to host a rally followed by a protest focused on Arpaio.
Before the protest, Hugo Sanchez, an illegal immigrant arrested Tuesday after participating in a different protest in Phoenix, gave a motivational speech stressing the importance for students to work toward equality.
Sanchez rallied the crowd to chant “undocumented and unafraid” to support his cause.
The three-mile march passed the Fourth Avenue jail, Arpaio’s office on Washington Street and ended at the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement headquarters.
Global health senior Monica Trejo marched and protested with the 600 other attendees and said the trust has been broken between citizens and law enforcement.
“It is the duty for the law enforcement to protect and serve the Maricopa county residents,” Trejo said.
Trejo said voting is important if we want to see change.
“Those that can, need to come up on Election Day in order to make a difference,” she said.
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