About 200 Latino students walked out of class this morning to protest Russell Pearce's latest legislative atrocity: SB 1611, an immigration omnibus that would forbid undocumented students from attending public colleges and universities in Arizona -- even if they can pay tuition out of their own pocket.
State Senator Steve Gallardo tells New Times he was at home this morning with no intention of coming to the office when he received a phone call telling him students were walking out of schools all over the city.
"This protest caught me by surprise," he said. But he came down to show solidarity with the students.
The protest did not start until about 11:30 but it continued strong into the afternoon.
Local schoolteacher Diane Ovalle taught her classes this morning and came down to support the protesters as well.
"They're down here to step up and fight," she said, adding that schoolteachers are put in a tough position by Pearce's legislation. As educators, she says, they're supposed to "teach anybody who wants to learn regardless of skin color."
The protest itself was Pearce's worst nightmare: hundreds of Latinos organized and marching.
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A large group of students walked between the state Senate and the state House chanting, "education not discrimination" and "el pueblo unido, jamás será vencido" (the village, united, will never be defeated) while holding a variety of posters.
Others sat off to the side, holding hands and gawking at the event as police officers stood around with their arms crossed.
One group of kids from Maryville tell New Times they expect the protest to make a difference, even if it's only in boosting morale.
"Yeah. Protests help all the time," they say. "It has to help."