DALLAS, Texas—Dozens of marches were expected across the United States on Monday in support of an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants and in protest of recent legislation aimed at toughening immigration laws.
On Sunday, tens of thousands of people banged drums, waved U.S. flags and marched in a protest in downtown Dallas, Texas, shouting “Si Se Puede!”—Spanish for “Yes, we can!”
Marchers included families pushing strollers with their children and ice cream vendors who placed American flags on their carts. Many wore white clothing to symbolize peace.
Police estimated the crowd at 350,000 to 500,000. There were no reports of violence.
It was among several demonstrations that drew thousands of protesters Sunday in New Mexico, Minnesota, Michigan, Alabama, Utah, Oregon, Idaho and California.
“We’ve got to get back in touch with the Statue of Liberty,” said the Rev. Lawton Higgs, a United Methodist pastor and activist. “We’ve got to get back in touch with the civil rights movement, because that’s what this is about.”
Organizers in St. Paul, Minnesota, were surprised by the crowd calling for change at a rally at the state Capitol. Police estimated the crowd at 30,000.
The rallies also drew counter-demonstrators.
In Salt Lake City, Utah, Jerry Owens, 59, a Navy veteran from Midway wearing a blue Minuteman T-shirt and camouflage pants, held a yellow “Don’t Tread on Me” flag.
“I think it’s real sad because these people are really saying it’s OK to be illegal aliens,” Owens said. “What Americans are saying is ‘Yes, come here. But come here legally.’ And I think that’s the big problem.”
Sunday’s demonstrations come ahead of nationwide protests set weeks ago for Monday, a signal that what began as a string of disparate events—attracting tens and even hundreds of thousands of people—has become more coordinated.
Different organizers have different agendas, but they do agree on the need to convert energy from protests into massive voter registration drives.
Voter registration and citizenship education initiatives are set to begin in several states after a “Day Without An Immigrant” campaign planned for May 1, an event that asks immigrants nationwide to stay home from work and school, and refrain from buying U.S. products.
“Marches will only get you so far,” said Armando Navarro, coordinator of the National Alliance for Human Rights, a network of Hispanic activist groups in Southern California. “There has to be an electoral component to get the Republicans out of the majority.”