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100,000 march in San Jose
by mercury (repost)
Monday May 1st, 2006 9:27 PM
100,000 march in San Jose

Patrick May, Mary Anne Ostrom and Rodney Foo
Mercury News

Joining millions of immigration-rights marchers in cities around the state and across the country, an estimated 100,000 predominantly Mexican-American demonstrators on Monday turned a wide swath of San Jose into raucous street theater, stepping forward to be recognized by America and insisting they be treated with respect.

``I'm not illegal,'' said one placard bobbing high above the protest's teeming nexus at San Jose's Story and King roads, ``I am human.''

Energized by both the midday sun and the spotlight of a growing national debate over immigration reform, Bay Area rallies from Salinas to San Francisco mirrored the San Jose gathering -- a rollicking sprawl of humanity: message tee-shirts; blasting horns; kids in strollers; seniors with umbrellas; and an endless billow of stars and stripes.

``We want to tell the world we're here,'' said restaurant manager Samuel Montano, 45, selling American and Mexican flags -- at a ratio of about 5-to-1 -- to East Side marchers. ``We don't want to hide or be scared. We work, we pay taxes, we want to be here. And we want to wave this flag,'' he said, pointing to the red, white and blue one.

The march, one of the state's largest on Monday and among the biggest San Jose has ever seen, played out against a far more nuanced backdrop. Lawmakers in Washington are continuing to grapple with ways to address the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants now in the United States, with some favoring legalization programs and others punishment.