About 75 Yale students, many of whom belong to the Undergraduate Organizing Committee and the Yale Coalition for Peace, rode with 11 busloads of New Haven immigrants and supporters to a New York City rally Saturday, marking the culmination of the Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride.
The rally, which took place in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park and drew a crowd of 100,000, featured speeches by civil rights leaders and a performance by Wyclef Jean. Saturday’s events followed two weeks of smaller demonstrations promoting immigrant rights in cities nationwide, including a Sept. 29 rally at New Haven’s First and Summerfield United Methodist Church.
Immigrant rights advocates traveled across the country for the past two weeks on the Freedom Ride. Eighteen buses brought these supporters from 10 cities through over 100 stops en route to meeting with congressional representatives in Washington, D.C. on Oct. 1. The buses arrived in New York Saturday for the rally.
The bus initiating the New Haven event started its journey in Boston Sept. 29. Immigrants and supporters from 17 countries, including Bangladesh and El Salvador, boarded the Boston bus and joined the movement.
Boston bus coordinator and Colombian immigrant Luis Velez said naturalized Americans should feel a bond with immigrants.
“We share the same values as Americans,” Velez said. “We work hard.”
Union research analyst Antony Dugdale, who attended the rally in New York, said he hopes the national attention from the rally will reinvigorate support for immigrant rights in the long-term.
“After [the terrorist attacks of] Sept. 11, the national momentum for immigrant rights really lost steam,” Dugdale said. “The rally and the Freedom Ride are just the beginning of what needs to be a sustained campaign.”
Many Yale students who attended the rally said they enjoyed the event.
Abbey Vladeck ’04 said she enjoyed hearing Rep. John Lewis speak.
“Having him there — affirming the tie between immigrant rights and civil rights in the ’60s — was really heartening,” Vladeck said.
Zachary Schwartz-Weinstein ’04 said he also believed the rally paralleled the civil rights movement. He said he enjoyed seeing people at the event who are part of a union composed primarily of immigrant cafeteria workers in New York City with whom he worked.
“To see so many of them there was incredibly powerful,” Schwartz-Weinstein said.
Julie Gonzales ’05 said sold bus tickets to Yale students attending the New York rally.
“It was definitely the biggest rally I’ve been to, and by far — the most diverse crowd,” Gonzales said.
Norma Franceschi, a resident of West Haven, said she helped organize the New Haven buses. She said she immigrated from Argentina in the ’70s, and her father immigrated to Argentina from Italy.
“I am [an] immigrant of an immigrant,” Franceschi said.
Dugdale said Wyclef Jean’s performance captured the essence of the event.
“[The performance] tied the whole event together perfectly,” Dugdale said.