Our VoiceImmigration

Arizona’s Youth Stage Sit-in Against Hateful Legislation

Chris Griffin • Mar 18, 2011

Children from across the state of Arizona gathered at the State Capitol on Wednesday, March 16 to protest anti-immigrant legislation that organizers called “hateful and harmful to Arizona’s youth.”  The youth, ranging in ages from kindergarten to college, led a short march to the Arizona Capitol where they then sat on the Capitol Lawn directly in front of the Senate Building – the location where anti-immigrant extremist and Senate President, Russell Pearce is housed.

Many of the Youth were dressed in costumes of what they want to be when they grow up in order to show the threat anti-immigrant bills pose to Arizona’s future.  While marching, youth, parents and allies carried signs with a variety of messages, all of which related to Arizona’s hateful laws and how those laws, present and past, are an attack on Arizona’s youth and future.  Included in this were banners that read “Russell Pearce:  Why do You Hate Arizona’s Youth?” and another banner that was created by the youth themselves and that stretched 30 feet in length.  On this banner there were hand-prints and written statements of resistance by the youth.

On the Senate lawn, kids, parents and chaperones sang songs reminiscent of the Civil Rights era, which included “This little Light of Mine” and “Jesus loves all of the little children of the world.”  Then just before they broke off into testimonials and speeches by the youth, a young girl independently sang the National Anthem while everyone else quietly listened.

During the speeches we heard passionate calls to action, voices of resistance, and many expressed being inspired by this event and statements of the young people.  One activist remarked “I needed this…” and she was not the only one.  Immigration work in Phoenix, AZ is often emotionally draining and sometimes disheartening.  This event was filled with moments of inspiration and heroism and on several occasions it gave me chills.

The next day the Arizona State Senate decided to take a vote on all the more extreme Bills by Pearce and his allies.  In a stunning turn of events, each of the bills was defeated by a full Senate vote and some were defeated by significant margins.  According to E.J. Montini, the “Republican-Controlled Legislature waged war on the children.”

The children, however, rose to the occasion, exercised their civil right to protest and confronted this legislature face to face, and that alone is quite the accomplishment, with or without the Bills being defeated.  My only hope is that we continue to open up this space for youth and provide them with the opportunity to help us recreate the future of Arizona and beyond.

Christopher Griffin is an activist with the Arizona Repeal Coalition with a background in Political Science and Sociology.
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