Over 35,000 Chicanxs*, Latinxs* and allies occupied the rotunda of the Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison, Wisconsin on Thursday. Students, workers, businesses owners and professionals made up the huge mass of protesters out to support “Un Dia Sin Latinos” or “A Day Without Latinos”, an event created in opposition to two anti-immigrant bills, AB 450 and SB 533. Many schools and businesses were empty or closed as students and patrons walked out and boycotted all capitalist purchases. Factories, farms and workplaces across the state were noticeably understaffed.
The repressive bills, introduced by the notoriously racist Wisconsin governor Scott Walker, criminalize undocumented people, similarly to the controversial Arizona law SB 1070. The first, AB 450, enables police and public employees to investigate the legal status of any person and detain for deportation anyone not holding papers. By prohibiting any city or county from passing an ordinance which disallows an employee of that subdivision (like a police officer) to inquire about the immigration status of any person who is detained, or, by the state employee’s personal discretion, failing to cooperate, this bill is an obvious facilitation of racial profiling.
The second, SB 533 would block the issuance of local identification cards to undocumented immigrants who, under current policy, are able to apply without being questioned about their legal status. This bill would also affect transgender people who prefer to have IDs with their representative names and genders listed and homeless people unable to get an ID without a permanent residence address.
Student groups included Youth Empowered in the Struggle (YES) from Milwaukee, WI and Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan (MEChA) from Madison. Several high schools provided transportation for their students to attend. Many shops closed down, encouraging all of their employees to join in the movement. Thousands of workers from less supportive companies called out for the day to prove that without them, businesses would have difficulty functioning. Blas Antimo Perez, a Madison native and current member of YES’s Milwaukee chapter, helped lead hundreds in a march around the capitol building. “This manifestation of Latinos reassured our community that we have the ability to mobilize around issues that affect us. We proved that we have a powerful voice and a bigger presence than we think, and showing that to the state and its leadership proves that we refuse to be marginalized. We are organizing toward liberation.”
The people rose up against racist, anti-immigrant bills proposed in Wisconsin. This protest put ordinary people into the streets, took control of the state’s economic climate, if even for a day, and broke the stigma of the docile Latinx. It taught children to defend their rights and the rights of their parents, and it sent a clear message to not only the state, but the nation; We are immigrants, we are Latinxs and we will no longer stand for what is unjust.
* As a literary form of resistance to the patriarchal system, Chicanx and Latinx are spelled with a non-traditional ‘X’ in place of an ‘O’. This decision is conscious and informed by moral obligation. It is not an error.