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Immigration marches spread statewide

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Monday's march and rally for immigration reform in Siler City came on the heels of another march that took place on Palm Sunday at the kickoff for the 20th annual Pilgrimage for Justice and Peace.

More than 500 people gathered Sunday at the Lenoir Latino Center in Caldwell County, and made their way south down N.C. 321 to end at the Hickory Latino Center in Catawba County.

“On a sunny spring day in Western North Carolina, hundreds of immigrant workers and their families stepped out of the shadows to publicly proclaim their right to be treated as human beings as federal immigration reform is debated in Congress,” said walk organizer Francisco Risso, director of the Western N.C. Workers’ Center.

On Monday morning, another rally for immigration reform was held in Smithfield. More than 250 people, many of them high school students and families, walked through downtown Smithfield, said Rosa Saavedra, one of the organizers of the march.

“We had way more people than we had thought,” Saavedra said.

Participants had a “sense of pride,” she said. People were empowered by “the self-knowing of one’s worth.”

While many people honked their horns in support of the marchers, there were “a lot of f-yous and a lot of birds,” Saavedra said. “But we also had a lot of incredible support from people who drove by. We had a lot of support from Anglos driving by, which was cool.”

The Pilgrimage for Justice and Peace, sponsored by the Raleigh-based Carolina Inter-Faith Task Force on Central America (CITCA), continued in Siler City on Monday. The six-day Pilgrimage ends in Raleigh on Good Friday with a walk starting at 9:30 a.m. from Martin Luther King Memorial Gardens on Rock Quarry Road to the state Capitol for a noon “Way of the Cross” service.

CITCA founder Gail Phares spent Sunday walking in the Pilgrimage. On Tuesday, Phares turned herself in at a federal prison in Alderson, W.V., where she began serving a 90-day sentence stemming from her conviction in January for trespassing onto Fort Benning in Columbus, Ga., protesting U.S. training of Latin American army officers with histories of human rights abuse there at the former U.S. Army School of the Americas, now renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation.

Phares, a former Maryknoll missionary, and Brevard activist Linda Mashburn will be joining former N.C. Agricultural Commissioner Meg Scott Phipps, who has spent the last two years serving a sentence at the Alderson prison for campaign finance-related violations.

Phares said Phipps told her: “She’s going to meet us at 5 and take Linda and I out to dinner."

For more information about joining the pilgrimage, call 491-0039 or 247-3523.

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