The largest anti-HB 56 protest to come to Montgomery, Alabama, happened this past Saturday, when 2500 protestors came to the state capitol to rally for the repeal of the nation’s harshest immigration law.
Carrying signs that said “One Family, One Alabama” and chanting “si se puede”, a coalition of immigrants, Latinos, civil rights leaders, labor representatives, clergy members, and others from more than 20 different states marched from the statehouse to the governor’s mansion, calling for an end to racial profiling and for families to be kept together.
The rally came at the end of a two-day Immigrant National Convention, also hosted in Montgomery, which brought together members from 35 different rights groups including the NAACP, National Council of La Raza (NCLR), and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).
As Americas Quarterly wrote about the rally:
The rally began in front of the state legislature, where the notorious bill was passed. There, speakers ranging from undocumented Alabamian students to SEIU secretary-treasurer Eliseo Medina railed against the pain being caused by HB 56. Students told of losing friends, whose families had left the state in recent months for fear of being detained by the police and being separated from their families. Civil rights leaders, meanwhile, warned against the dangers of going back to the “dark days” of segregation in the state. Orator after orator insisted on the need to repeal the law and build a brighter, more inclusive, future for Alabama…
Ultimately, the rally and mobilization made one of the largest public statements against HB 56 since the law’s passage, but it was also important because it signaled the incipient organizing muscle that is being built in Alabama’s immigrant rights community. Several months ago there were virtually no full-time community organizers working with immigrants in Alabama. Now, the Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice and its national supporters are working hard to build up that capacity, with the ultimate hope of building enough grassroots power to repeal HB 56. Over the next months, organizers will be coordinating house meetings to bring people together, as well as further public actions during the upcoming legislative session.
Saturday’s protest adds momentum to the campaign to repeal HB 56, which was launched last month in Birmingham, Alabama, when 3400 protestors and 10 U.S. members of Congress rallied at the historic 16th St. Baptist Church. Another march is scheduled for February, when the state legislature will be returning to session.
Since Alabama began implementing the HB 56 immigration law in late September, the state has seen all kinds of intended and unintended consequences, as crops have rotted from lack of available labor, children have been dropping out of schools, and families have been split apart. In recent weeks, the state has been on the defensive trying to convince foreign companies that Alabama is still “open for business” after two foreign auto executives were detained by police for driving without an Alabama state ID. State leaders who now admit that at least some changes to HB 56 are necessary include Republican state legislators who voted for the bill, state Attorney General Luther Strange, and even Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (who signed the bill) himself.
Watch this amazing video from Saturday’s rally below: