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CALIFORNIA ELECTIONS / PROPOSITION 187 : Emotions High at Last-Minute Protests : Several demonstrations are held around Downtown and the opposition campaign heats up with $1 million in new donations. L.A. schools chief urges punishing students who walk out.

November 08, 1994|PAUL FELDMAN and JON GARCIA | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

With emotions over Proposition 187 surging toward an Election Day peak, foes of the measure continued to mount protest rallies around Southern California on Monday and stepped up their media advertising with the help of a last-ditch $1-million infusion.

Sponsors of the anti-illegal immigration ballot measure, meanwhile, continued their radio ads and get-out-the-vote efforts, remaining relatively quiet but strongly confident.

Much of the protest activity continued to focus on student walkouts, with more than 2,500 leaving school. But the Los Angeles Unified School District's top official cast off his tolerant tone to issue a stern warning that any further truancy will be punished.

"Why are we (taking a harder line) now? Because obviously the emotion is now," Supt. Sidney A. Thompson said. "This is the election. This is precisely the time to save young people, even from themselves. . . . We gave you a chance, now we want you on campus."

In past weeks, the district has recommended punishment for only those students involved in vandalism or violence while off campus, although some schools did prescribe detention or suspensions. Under Monday's stricter stand, Thompson said, specific punishments would be left to school principals, but they will include parent conferences and suspensions.

Some students said such proclamations would not deter them.

"We have a right to be heard," said Monique Holguin, a ninth-grader in the El Rancho Unified School District in Pico Rivera, who walked more than 10 miles to Los Angeles City Hall on Monday. "We are just trying to get our message across. To say we can't do that is dumb."

Opponents of the ballot initiative continued a stepped-up media campaign using about $1 million in contributions received in the past week that nearly doubled the amount raised previously in the campaign. "It's significant and part of the momentum that's been happening," said Joel Maliniak, a campaign spokesman for Taxpayers Against 187.

The California Teachers Assn. continued to be the largest single donor to the opposition, pitching in an additional $100,000 to supplement the $443,000 it had already contributed. Univision, the parent company of KMEX-TV in Los Angeles and 10 other stations nationwide, pumped in $200,000 in the last week.

Although the Spanish-language Univision network is a U.S. corporation based in New Jersey, its minority shareholders include Grupo Televisa, the Mexican media conglomerate headed by Mexican press baron Emilio Azcarraga.

Texas computer magnate John Moores, who with his wife, Rebecca, has been the largest individual contributor to the gubernatorial campaign of Kathleen Brown, sank $100,000 in last-minute funds into the 'no' campaign. And David Gelbaum of Sierra Partners in Newport Beach made a last-minute contribution of $180,000.

Radio ads in support of Proposition 187, sponsored by the Washington-based Federation for American Immigration Reform and the Orange County-based California Coalition for Immigration Reform, also continued Monday. And coalition Chairwoman Barbara Coe expressed optimism that the pro-187 forces would prove victorious.

"We're not doing anything, if you will, organized," Coe said. "But we feel very good. We feel that loyal Americans will come forward and support" Proposition 187.

Coe predicted that the continuing rallies against the measure could backfire for anti-187 forces. "If they've been like some in the past, if you're a loyal American and you love your country, they will hurt them real bad," she said.

At City Hall shortly before 1 p.m., more than 1,000 demonstrators, many of them workers from Los Angeles' Downtown garment district, converged in a boisterous--and somewhat heated--rally against the ballot measure.

As in past demonstrations, protesters carried "No on 187" signs along with American, Salvadoran and Mexican flags. But this time, the demonstration took on a harder edge, with some protesters carrying a U.S. flag upside down and others a sign containing profanities directed at Gov. Pete Wilson, the measure's leading proponent.

The peaceful demonstration lasted about an hour. But several groups of students left early, saying they did not want to have any part of a protest in which the American flag was displayed upside down. "We are supposed to show respect," said Angel Barajas, a student at Belmont High School. "This is stupid."

For much of the day, a convoy of hundreds of mainly Latino truckers registered their opposition to Proposition 187 by driving their big rigs down Los Angeles freeways and Downtown streets, horns blaring. Late in the afternoon, the caravan circled City Hall, prompting columns of motorcycle officers to mobilize in an effort to keep traffic moving, an LAPD spokesman said.

The only joint appearance of pro- and anti-187 advocates Monday was on a spirited live edition of the "Geraldo" show on KCBS-TV Monday afternoon.

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