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Immigration Rights Defended

October 2, 2006
By MATT BURGARD, Courant Staff Writer

More than 150 people protesting the country's immigration policies, as well as the ongoing war in Iraq, marched through the streets of Hartford on Sunday, but not before being stopped by city police who maintained the event's organizers did not have a proper permit.

The march, which was organized by the Regional Coalition for Immigrant Rights, started Sunday afternoon in front of the Legislative Office Building on Capitol Avenue and continued down Broad Street and Park Street before ending at South Green Park.

The protesters waved signs and shouted chants decrying the Bush administration's policies on immigration. The policies have included stepped-up efforts to round up immigrants who have illegally entered the country.

The marchers also protested the war in Iraq as well as the U.S. State Department's position on the recent outbreak of violence between Israel and the pro-Palestinian Hezbollah forces in southern Lebanon.

"We need to stand up," said organizer David Amdur of the American Friends Service Committee. He said the immigration issue has become especially important since the announcement Sept. 19 that federal agents had arrested several suspected illegal immigrants in Danbury by posing as would-be employers.

"We're only pushing these people further in the shadows," he said as the march began.

But as the marchers moved down Broad Street toward the intersection with Park Street, they were stopped by Hartford police officers who told organizers they could not continue without a proper permit. The officers, including Sgt. Gregory Weston, said they were not aware of the march and had not made plans to close off the streets to ensure public safety.

But Alina Zuniga, one of the march organizers, told Weston that she had contacted several authorities within the police department last week who had assured her that officers would be on hand to make sure the march went smoothly.

Zuniga told Weston that she had agreed to meet with another sergeant shortly before the march to make sure they had all the proper authorization, but the sergeant had not shown up for the meeting.

Weston countered that he was not familiar with any arrangements about the march and, as the shift supervisor that afternoon, he could not allow the march to go forward.

However, after several minutes of negotiations, police allowed the marchers to continue moving down Park Street as long as they remained on the sidewalk.

Police commanders in charge of approving permits were not on duty Sunday and were not available for comment.

Once the protesters arrived at South Green Park, they listened to several speeches from various activists about the dangers of the country's current immigration policies.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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