23 arrested at Seattle immigration rally

23 arrested at Seattle immigration rally »Play Video
SEATTLE -- Police arrested 23 people at an immigration rally that snarled evening rush-hour traffic in downtown Seattle on Wednesday.

More than 100 gathered near Second Ave. and Madison St. just after the lunch hour. Wearing white "immigration reform now" T-shirts, the protesters chanted and marched, demanding comprehensive immigration reform while refusing to get out of the street.

The crowd was so large it blocked an intersection in front of the Federal Building and triggered traffic problems throughout the downtown core. Police eventually arrested 23 of those gathered under investigation of pedestrian interference.

But the arrests came after hours of protest by the marchers who were determined to speak up for all the immigrants who can't speak up for themselves.

"Because my heart, and it's a moral thing. It's the right to do," said Carmen Miranda. "They deserve it. Everybody deserves to be in this country and follow their dreams."

"We demand immigration reform, and we feel it is such an issue of moral crisis, moral urgency that we are ready to risk arrest ourselves," said Pramila Jayapal, a member of One America, an immigration rights group.

Despite the police presence, the atmosphere among the marchers was a festive one. Down the street, however, drivers were fuming over the traffic jam.

"Well, good, we need an immigration rally, but I don't know why I can't go left," said one driver.

Traffic was deadlocked, and bus routes were tossed into disarray for three hours of the evening commute.

"Probably not a smart move on their part," said a frustrated driver about the rally. "Whether you support their cause or not, politically, just not a smart thing to do."

Organizers defended their actions, saying they moved from a legally-permitted protest in the plaza of the Federal Building to form an illegal roadway blockade in order to send a message.

"Civil disobedience (has been seen) throughout many social fights since the day of Martin Luther King, and even before then. We're here, and we want to be heard," said Kendra Anderson.

Police gave the group several warnings and ample leeway before finally taking the protesters into custody. Miranda was one of them, reminding nearly every American that each one from someplace else.

"I think they need to remember their history," she said. "I think they need to remember their ancestors. They need to remember where they come from."

Investigators said most of the 23 arrested protesters were expected to be released some time Wednesday night.