Latinos expect a 'festive' rally

By Mae Gentry, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, October 6, 2004

The north DeKalb County city of Doraville got caught off-guard last year, when thousands of people showed up for the first Dia de la Raza march and rally.

The event, dubbed the Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride, was part of a national caravan that included workers, labor unions and church groups advocating more rights for immigrants who are in the United States illegally.

"They told me there would be 250 to 300 people," said Doraville Police Chief John King. "Twenty-five hundred showed up. I had to call in a bunch of officers off-duty, and it cost us about $2,000."

This year, organizers of the "March for Dignity" were asked to cover costs associated with the event scheduled for Tuesday, even though no city ordinance requires such a fee.

"We decided to appeal that in front of the City Council," said Adelina Nicholls, president of the Coordinating Council of Latino Community Leaders, an advocacy group that unites Latino civic leaders and community organizations throughout the state.

But the Sept. 20 City Council meeting grew heated when Councilman Lamar Lang, 72, called illegal immigrants "freeloaders."...

"In general, the people of Doraville do not represent the negative views that were expressed by a few members of the Council," Anavitarte said in a statement issued soon after the meeting. "We are a city of inclusion that is open to individuals and families from all around the United States and world."

Doraville, a city of 9,862, is 43 percent Hispanic, according to the U.S. Census....

After last month's contentious meeting, Anavitarte and King, who was born in Mexico, negotiated a settlement for this year's march. Participants will walk along a shorter route in groups of 50, with volunteer "marshals" in front and behind to help police....

Dia de la Raza - Spanish for "Day of the Race" - is celebrated throughout Latin America. And though it coincides with Columbus Day, it honors the Native American people conquered by the Spaniards and celebrates Latino pride.

"We picked this day as a day of protest,"León said. "It shows the strength of the people. . . . This is our day and our day has come."...

"We told people to bring music and sing and dance," he said. "There'll be people wearing native clothing. A lot of people will bring out the flags from all different countries of Latin America."

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