Politics and sports came together Monday evening when several hundred demonstrators used the opener of the Los Angeles Dodgers' three-game series against the Arizona Diamondbacks to protest that state's new immigration bill.
Holding placards that read, among other things, "Arizona Shame on You" and chanting "Boycott Arizona!" demonstrators marched up Elysian Park Avenue toward Stadium Way and assembled on the four corners outside the entrance to the stadium, walking back and forth across the streets.
"The Dodgers have the largest Latino fan base in the league," said Mike Garcia, president of United Service Workers West, part of the Service Employees International Union.
Garcia estimated that 200 of his members were there clad in purple shirts.
"We have historically supported them since their move here in 1958," he said. "Now we're asking them to take a stand for us — take a stand against this mean-spirited bill."
In addition to the SEIU, the demonstration was put together by a variety of civil rights and grassroots groups to shine a spotlight on the immigration law, which goes into effect soon and compels police to determine the status of people they stop and suspect are in the country illegally.
"The fact that the Diamondbacks go all around the country gives us an opportunity to raise awareness that something horrible is going on in Arizona," Roosevelt High math teacher Randy Childs said as he demonstrated. "We need people to stand up. We need a new civil rights movement."
Unlike other efforts across the country calling for boycotts of Arizona businesses, no one was suggesting Monday that fans tear up their tickets.
"We're not going to stop them from attending the game," said John Morales, one of the organizers of the protest. "They've already bought their tickets. We're trying to make a connection between sports and politics…. The Diamondback team is not just from Arizona; the ownership has contributed to the Republican Party that has spearheaded the legislation."
Diamondbacks managing general partner Ken Kendrick, a substantial financial backer of Republican politicians, issued a statement in late April saying, "This whole situation is sad and disappointing for all of us who are associated with the Arizona Diamondbacks."
"BOO ARIZONA!" declared one leaflet that demonstrators handed out Monday. It urged major league baseball to pull the 2011 All-Star Game, scheduled for Phoenix, out of the state. And protesters also said they wanted the Dodgers to stop doing their spring training in Arizona.
The SEIU and the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles bought 100 bleachers seats for Monday night's game, according to SEIU's Hilda Delgado, so they could boo Arizona and turn their backs on the Diamondbacks' first pitch.
"I think it's good," law student Michael Scovill said as he carried his 9-month-old daughter, Rylan, on his shoulders as he took her to her first Dodgers game. "I like 1st Amendment exercising."