Organizers Expect Crush for Immigrant Rights Rally

Carlos Castera of CASA of Maryland and others handed out fliers to worshipers arriving at St. Camillus Church in Silver Spring, urging them to attend the march and rally.
Carlos Castera of CASA of Maryland and others handed out fliers to worshipers arriving at St. Camillus Church in Silver Spring, urging them to attend the march and rally. (By Bill O'leary -- The Washington Post)

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By Nancy Trejos and Aruna Jain
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, April 10, 2006

In churches, shops and sidewalks across the Washington region yesterday, thousands of people bustled in preparation for a rally that immigration advocates say could be a pivotal moment for Latinos and other groups seeking to demonstrate their political clout.

Organizers of the National Day of Action for Immigrant Justice -- or La Marcha , as some volunteers are calling it -- said it could draw as many as 180,000 people to the Mall and hundreds of thousands more in nearly 100 cities nationwide.

Although no one knows for certain how many people will show up at the D.C. rally, the event has the potential to complicate the afternoon rush hour.

This afternoon, scores of buses will begin moving protesters from throughout the region to the District. CASA of Maryland, an immigrant rights group, has arranged for more than 40 buses to take them to Seventh Street NW between Madison and Jefferson drives. Fifteen additional buses will run a loop six times between CASA's Silver Spring office and the Takoma Metro station and are expected to carry about 5,000 people, said Kim Propeack, advocacy director for CASA.

Mexicanos Sin Fronteras, a D.C.-based immigrant rights group, will send about 20 buses from Virginia to Meridian Hill Park in the Adams Morgan area, said Farah Fosse of the Latino Economic Development Corp., a local organizer.

There, the participants will join neighborhood residents in a march down 16th and 15th streets NW to the Mall. Police plan to temporarily close some streets along the way.

A Metro spokesman said officials would monitor the situation and could decide to extend the evening rush, keeping the maximum number of cars on the tracks.

"We are very excited and energized, but at the same time there's a lot of pressure to ensure everything is going to be smooth," said Gustavo Torres, executive director of CASA.

Yesterday, with less than 24 hours to go before the rally, organizers scrambled as they prepared to move thousands of bodies, conceding that they weren't sure how they would do it.

"It's just wild. I don't know how to describe it," Propeack said. "As of 24 hours ago, we said, 'No more transportation,' and people are just phoning us off the hook. They want more."

Projected turnout, said Lt. Kathleen Harasek of the U.S. Park Police, "is well within what we're normally trained to handle. . . . We're comfortable with it, and we're not stressing out over it."

Across California alone, about 20 events are planned for today, ranging from a rally in Bakersfield to a ceremony in San Diego dedicated to immigrants who have died trying to cross the border illegally.

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