Wilson himself, during a 45-minute address Sunday to an audience of some 400 in the retirement community of Leisure World in Laguna Hills, did not mention the protest when he blamed illegal immigrants for costing the state billions of dollars in services that should be reserved for legal residents.
"We are unable to provide services to our own legal residents," Wilson said. He declared that illegal immigrants absorb 10% of the state's general fund.
"Now that is terribly unfair. . . . I say we should end those services to illegal immigrants. We are . . . rewarding people for violating U.S. law."
Despite opposition from educators, medical groups, organized labor and others, polls have shown strong support for Proposition 187 among likely voters, including many Latinos. Proponents say it will deter new illegal immigration and force those already here to return home--a premise disputed by opponents, who say the measure would leave hundreds of thousands of youths without education while contributing to the spread of disease by cutting access to non-emergency medical care.
The proposition's strong support, analysts say, underlines a widespread preoccupation about the fast-paced immigration that has drastically altered California's demographic mix since the 1980s.
Anti-187 strategists acknowledge a difficult uphill battle, particularly because even though anti-Proposition 187 forces have apparently raised more than twice as much money as proponents, fund-raising efforts have so far fallen short of the kind of money needed for an all-out television blitz against the initiative.
Many in the anti-187 coalition--including mainstream Latino groups such as the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Educational Fund--argued that a massive march barely three weeks before the election was a bad tactic, and attempted to scuttle the event. Several Latino activists privately expressed fears that a sea of brown faces marching through Downtown Los Angeles would only antagonize many voters.
Another group, Taxpayers Against 187--the umbrella organization spearheading the campaign against the initiative whose member groups include teachers, medical professionals and union activists--did not take part in organizing the march.
Nonetheless, march organizers--a statewide coalition of activists grouped together as the National Coordinating Committee for Citizenship and Civic Participation--opted to go ahead with the event.
Participants called the demonstration a success, as it provided a forum for opponents--citizens and non-citizens alike--to express their frustrations. They said it sets the stage for increased immigrant participation in future campaigns, electoral and otherwise.
"There was concern and disagreement based on what was the best way of defeating 187, but I don't think you can deny people the right to participate," said Councilman Hernandez, who was among the marchers.
Not so impressed was Ron Prince, chairman of the pro-187 campaign.
"If the weather's nice, they can do that if they want to," Prince responded when contacted at the campaign's Orange County offices. "I'm sure a lot of people were there to see the show."
The march, he predicted, would bolster his cause by focusing attention on the problem of illegal immigration.
"When people look at the issue, they understand the problem and they tend to support Proposition 187," said Prince, an accountant in Tustin.
While the march turnout was impressive, many participants were foreign nationals unable to vote. Among them was Rafael, a 27-year-old illegal immigrant who hoisted a Mexican flag as he marched near the head of the event.
"Our lives are here now, and we're not going back to Mexico no matter what happens," said Rafael, a factory worker and father of three, including two U.S.-born sons and an undocumented 6-year-old boy now attending public school. "I work hard, and I don't think it's fair that my son should be thrown out of school," Rafael said as he marched.
Among the many Asian Americans participating was Han Kyong Kim, who came with a group of Korean Americans. "If this proposition passes," said Kim, a businessman, "all immigrants will be suspect."
Sunday's march follows a similar demonstration in May that drew between 8,000 and 25,000 protesters to Downtown Los Angeles, before Proposition 187 was placed on the ballot.
Contributing to this story were Times staff writers Chip Johnson and Nicholas Riccardi.