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Deal reached to delay Latino rally

Organizers agree to hold their immigrant rights event in April to avoid a conflict with Saturday's Golden Dragon Parade.

February 21, 2007|Patrick McGreevy | Times Staff Writer

Seeking to avert a confrontation with police, organizers of an immigrant rights rally that was proposed to be held without a permit this Saturday in downtown Los Angeles agreed to postpone the event until April 7.

The Police Commission had denied Latino Movement USA a permit because one had already been issued for that day to the Chinese Chamber of Commerce's annual Golden Dragon Parade.

Los Angeles Police Department officials had raised public safety concerns about allowing two large events downtown on the same day.

After the permit was denied, some activists threatened to go ahead with the rally without a permit, but police warned they would arrest people if a large crowd gathered without city permission.

"There were some gut reactions from people who felt this is a free speech issue so 'we are going to be there with or without a permit,' " said Juan Jose Gutierrez of Latino Movement USA. "But I think when the dust settled, none of us wanted to be in a confrontational mood with the authorities."

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Councilman Jose Huizar negotiated a compromise in which activists would be granted a permit for April 7 for an event expected to draw more than 50,000 people.

Although the LAPD has agreed to the new date, the permit must be approved by the Police Commission.

Organizers said the rally would highlight opposition to recent sweeps by federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents that resulted in the arrest of hundreds of alleged illegal immigrants.

Rally supporters are calling for the government to grant amnesty to many of those who are in this country without proper papers.

A similar rally last March drew about 500,000 to downtown Los Angeles, snarling traffic and interfering with business in the central city.

"Having both events simultaneously would have posed significant challenges from a logistical and staffing standpoint, not to mention the potential traffic nightmare," Huizar said.

In a statement, Villaraigosa said the compromise involving a postponement of the Full Rights for Immigrants march "will balance the city's commitment to peaceful, orderly public celebrations and demonstrations with the allocation of very limited resources."

Originally, the LAPD and Police Commission had suggested that the rally be postponed just one day, to Feb. 25, but Gutierrez said delaying the rally until April would allow more public outreach so the crowd may be bigger.

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patrick.mcgreevy@latimes.com

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