(Photo by A. David Dahmer)

To be completely honest, I haven’t seen so much love and support in one space as I did yesterday at the state Capitol building. I was moved and reminded of why I love my Latino community so much. We didn’t know each other on a personal level, but our chants said more than any of our lingering conversations could cover.

Businesses were shutting down and State Street was receiving less business than usual. While protesting, Wisconsin was losing pivotal contributions from the Latino population that included construction workers, hotel management, dairy production, grocery store employees, and restaurants. Not to mention that The Latino Chamber of Commerce of Dane County participated in the Dia Sin Latinos protest as well.
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Oddly enough, with the attendance of over 20,000 people, this was the most peaceful protest I’ve attended. Rightfully so; we aren’t malicious and violent as the media portrays us to be. However, I did pick up on the slightest gestures that taught me more about my people than I knew before. I noticed the kindness in their eyes and the timid and somewhat scared hearts of the people in attendance. We chanted for no longer than two consecutive minutes, and then silence filled the perimeter of the state Capitol building. It was almost as if they, us, we — were scared of being outspoken after being silenced for so long.
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This wasn’t solely a march around the Capitol; we made our way inside. We stood together in solidarity for hours, just as peaceful as we were at 10 a.m. There can be many things said about UW-Madison as a school: the lack of diversity, or the underlying difficulty in being accepted or included in spaces predominantly dominated by white people. But yesterday, the university community came together with the courage and power of greater community to protest two anti-immigration bills: AB 450 and SB 533: Essentially, AB 450 bans municipalities from passing laws that would prevent law enforcement officers from questioning the immigration status of people who have been arrested. SB 533 would limit or restrict a county’s ability to issue local ID cards to undocumented workers; leaving their identity as a barrier for traveling, driving, or working.

As I became familiar with the two anti-immigration bills being argued, I questioned how intrinsic America wants us to be as a society. I watched a family hold a sign that read “deportation is tearing families apart,” and noticed how scared the mother holding her baby was. It was gut-wrenching knowing that this family and millions of others, including mine, have experienced this. I stood beside this family, made posters, and felt that my family had just gained four new members.

This protest was history in the making. Up until yesterday, I had never seen this many Latinos present at one time here in Madison. But this time it wasn’t solely the Latino community, it was the community of students, teachers, workers, women, men, children, white, black — it was the definition of a melting pot on fire. I was surrounded by a family that never belonged to me, but still belonged to me at the same time.
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So there real question is how can you even describe being in a space of full support? To me, it’s like a trust fall; being able to rely on others and feeling safe. It was home away from home. I walked away from this protest knowing more about myself and in the process found that Wisconsin is filled with conscious people who are willing to help the masses towards equality, even if we don’t see them on a day-to-day basis.

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