From public protests downtown to the SW 29th street corridor of Hispanic-owned businesses and to the west side, Oklahoma City was a part of the nationwide strike Thursday called “Day without Immigrants.”
The strike was an organic social media development to show by their absence the many ways in which immigrants contribute to our daily lives.
A group of about 20 demonstrators took their position on the Myriad Gardens corner of the intersection of W. Sheridan and N. Robinson downtown about 5:00.
They held signs that said “Stop the hate,” “We came to live the American dream” and “We are people, not contraband.”
The group chanted “Si, se puede,” meaning “Yes, we can!” They also chanted “Stop the hate!”
Anna Loarca was there with her daughter to join the demonstration. She said that she and her daughter were born in the U.S. and were demonstrating for all immigrants to have fair treatment.
“I do agree that we should have a wall,” said Loarca. “But they should work with the people who are here to keep families from being separated.”
Alfredo who goes by “Freddy” would not give his last name in case there might be repercussions to the demonstration.
He said he was born in Texas and grew up in Oklahoma City. He is a student at Oklahoma City Community College on the southwest side of the city.
Freddy said the group was exercising their right to free speech and assembly.
“It’s all about coming together. It’s all about being down for the people and being down for the cause,” he said. “Without any voices, we’re just going to be silenced. This is a start.”
SW 29th Street
“There were only about three shops that I know of along SW 29th street that stayed open today,” said Ramiro Vasquez. He is the owner of La Oaxaqueña, a popular bakery and restaurant at 741 SW 29th Street in Oklahoma City. He talked with Free Press by phone at the end of the day.
His restaurant is part of a core of vibrant south side Hispanic owned businesses along SW 29th between S. Shields Boulevard and S. May Avenue.
“I would say that all of the businesses along 29th were closed except for a few that were owned by people who weren’t Latino or were parts of larger chains that would not let them close,” said Vasquez.
Free Press made a quick pass down that corridor at the end of the workday and confirmed what Vasquez said about the participation.
Even Buy for Less at 2701 S.W. 29th Street near S. May Avenue had signs on its doors explaining that they were closed in solidarity with their employees for the day. Not all Buy for Less stores closed across the city, however.
“People were anxious today to speak out,” said Vasquez.
He said that the weekend before the Highway Patrol had set up two checkpoints at intersections of I-44 and SW 29th and SW 44th streets, “two intersections that Hispanics use regularly to get around on the south side.”
At first, when word started to spread about the checkpoints, Latinos feared that it was ICE – U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement – that was manning it. He said correct information went around eventually that it was the Oklahoma Highway Patrol alone and didn’t involve the Oklahoma City Police.
In recent comments to the Oklahoma City Council, OKCPD Chief Bill Citty assured council members that they would cooperate with requests for assistance on immigration actions by the federal government. However, their officers would not initiate any immigration investigations because they want all members of the community to feel free to call the police for assistance without hesitation.
Beyond 29th Street
In west Oklahoma City and Moore, the popular three Supermercado Morelos grocery stores were closed for the day to take part in the strike.
Their two stores on the west side of Oklahoma City are far beyond the SW 29th street corridor.
One is near NW 23rd and N. Meridian and the other is almost due north on NW 50th street.
As with other participating stores throughout the city, their signs on the doors explained that they were a part of the strike and reassured shoppers that they would be open at their regular time the next morning.