Sunday’s march for immigrant rights started as a gathering of hundreds at the corner of 7th & Broadway. By the time it was finished, police estimated the crowd as between 3,000 and 5,000 people, making it one of the largest political protests in Rockford history.
“It can be done” was their message as they marched from 7th & Broadway through downtown, and into Davis Park. There, protestors rallied to spread a vision of peace and understanding. They came from near and far to share in the same goal.
"We are here because we love America, and we need to work hard, that's why we need to unite," Julio Salgado said. Salgado began planning the Rockford rally a little over a week ago. Word spread quickly through the Latino community, bringing together people from all across Illinois. One man who grew up in Arizona says the proposed law making illegal immigration a felony will do more harm than good.
"They are put into a desperate and untenable situation and the desperation causes them to hide underground and that desperation causes them to hide and become illegal,” Lee Bennight said. “We always focus on their illegal status. What people don't understand is they're only illegal because we don't give them any opportunity. They can't survive at home; they can't survive here so it drives them underground." Alderman Jeff Holt was blown away by the large attendance.
"I think this is an amazing protest,” Holt said. “It's a peaceful march by the Hispanic community in Rockford that the immigration policy that's been proposed by the republican congress is unfair.”
“The thousands in attendance had a simple message to the people who oppose giving them their rights: immigrants are normal people,” Yoselia Castaneda said.
"We come here to work, not to do something wrong,” Martin Guadarrama said. “To be a worker is not wrong. We come here to make a better life.”
The diverse turnout reflects the changing face of the city, Holt said. "We're seeing more of a Hispanic and Asian influence that want to live in our community. I think that Rockford is great because we're so open and diverse."