East Siders march from Mexican Consulate to capitol on ‘Day Without Immigrants’

On Thursday, Feb. 16, marchers gathered at the Mexican Consulate along East Seventh Street to march to the Minnesota State Capitol on the “Day Without Immigrants.”

The East Side’s Indigenous Roots, an organization that teaches about the traditions of the Mexica-Nahua culture, lead the march along East Seventh Street to the Minnesota State Capitol.

After arriving at the Capitol, Indigenous Roots danced on the plaza in front of the Capitol steps. Marchers later went into the building and into the Senate building across the street.

Businesses close as the community marches

Restaurants and businesses run by immigrants across the nation closed Thursday, Feb. 16, to show how immigrants affect the U.S. economy and everyday lives, in protest of the Trump administration’s anti-immigration stance. 

It was dubbed a “Day Without Immigrants” and many East Siders participated by marching and closing their businesses. 


A two-mile march

At about 10:30 a.m., roughly 1,500 marchers gathered at the Mexican Consulate on East Seventh Street in Dayton’s Bluff and marched to the Minnesota State Capitol. The march was led by dancers from the East Side’s Indigenous Roots, a group that teaches about the traditions of the Mexica-Nahua culture. They have been involved in various community organizing efforts related to the police killing of Philando Castile and the Dakota Access Pipeline protests.

Mary Anne Quiroz, who leads Indigenous Roots with her husband Sergio, said the march was spontaneous and organized in fewer than 24 hours.

“It was literally a conversation that happened on Wednesday and then everyone met up at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday,” Quiroz said.

Much of the organizing, she said, was “old school,” through word of mouth. Then, by about 2 p.m. on Feb. 15, she added, someone created a flyer and shared it on social media. By 4 p.m. she said the plans for the march went viral and later in the evening St. Paul police called her to organize police support.

“I give credit to St. Paul police, as well, for their support of the march, last minute. I feel like St. Paul police working in solidarity with groups is an important statement, as well, to show that we can come together and we can support one another,” Quiroz said. 

She said the event was created by many groups who wanted to stay anonymous, for the sake of keeping the march open to everyone and as a statement about how immigrants are viewed.

“Immigrants are seen as invisible here in our community, whether they are documented or undocumented,” Quiroz said. “They work in our restaurants, they harvest and pick food in fields, they clean our homes and hotels and places we stay at, they teach in our schools, they fix our cars, and so for us it’s not [about] giving credit to the organizers but more so to bring people together.”


‘Start of an awakening’

The march to the Capitol took about an hour. Marchers carried signs and chanted, “AquÌ estamos y no nos vamos” — “We are here and we will not go” — “Brown and proud,” “SÌ se puede” — “Yes its possible” — and “No more Donald Trump.”

Once at the Capitol, marchers rallied outside and inside. Some went next door to the Senate building for a hearing on the Real ID bill, which will make Minnesota driver’s licenses and ID cards compliant with federal standards, though it would likely make it more difficult for undocumented people to get licenses, as well.

A 34-year-old undocumented man, who is going to school in the Twin Cities to become a social studies teacher, described the march as the “start of an awakening.”

A challenge he often sees in the Latino community is that “we don’t know how this system works,” he said, pointing to the Capitol. He said he believed the march was a good start to address the problem and added that he wants to teach social studies so young people understand how their government works.

“This is a fire we are starting,” he said.

A 48-year-old Minneapolis man, who came to march with friends from Dayton’s Bluff, said he marched to prevent families from being separated due to deportation, to show the impact immigrants make on the economy and to fight for the dignity of immigrants.

“We aren’t delinquents. We pay taxes and we come here for a better life and to work,” he said. “We are humans and need opportunities.”


East Side businesses join the protest

Sonia Ortega owns La Plaza del Sol on Payne Avenue, Sonia’s Steakhouse inside the plaza building, Las 3B Auto Sales on Minnehaha Avenue and a commercial cleaning business. On the Day Without Immigrants, she closed all of them and marched to the Capitol.

“Our goal was to have people realize the impact we have on the community,” Ortega said. “Since the new president came in, he has insulted the Latino community and we are not going to tolerate that.”

In addition to Ortega’s businesses, Bymore Supermercado, Centromex Supermercado, all Los Gallos locations, Supermercado y Cafe La Palma, Taqueria los Paisanos, Fruitilandia, Cristy’s Bridal, Panaderia San Miguel, and other East Side businesses closed on the Day Without Immigrants.

Ortega has run businesses on the East Side for the past four years and has lived in the U.S. for 28 years. She’s a naturalized citizen, originally from Oaxaca, Mexico.

“We just wanted to show we are not here only providing labor, we are also self-reliant. Most of us come here with a dream,” she said. “I believe very strongly in the American Dream.”


Show of solidarity

Ortega said for her, one of the most important messages from the Day Without Immigrants march was a sense of unity not just between Latinos, but with African-Americans, Asian Americans, Muslim Americans, LGBT community members, women and other groups. 

“I turn out to be a woman who is gay and Latina,” Ortega said. “We, as a minority, are willing to support all the other causes because even if we don’t realize, it will affect all of us.”

Members of Black Lives Matter, Native Lives Matter and other groups participated in the Feb. 16 march.

“My belief is that the only way a bad government can get away with anything is with division,” Ortega said. “The only mistake we can make  as a society is to allow any government to divide us.”

Ortega said another important aspect of the march was youth involvement. Many parents took the day off work and took their kids out of school to participate. She said she believes it is important to remind youth, many who were born in the U.S., that “we struggled,” and that the struggle is not over.

“See, a lot of us could turn a blind eye and pretend that whatever happens does not affect us,” Ortega said. “If we’re not willing to stand up for the people that don’t have a voice, who’s going to?”

To see a video of Indigenous Roots dancing at the march go to Lillienews.com


Marjorie Otto can be reached at 651-748-7816 or at eastside@lillienews.com. Follow her on Twitter at @EastSideM_Otto. 



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