Saturday , April 01, 2006
LAS VEGAS —Students walked out at nearly two dozen schools Friday in a renewal of protests over immigration policies being debated in Congress.
Police and school officials said at least 3,000 students left after the morning bell at 22 area high schools, middle school campuses and the Community College of Southern Nevada.
One student was arrested for carrying a gun, but no shots were fired, police Sgt. Chris Jones said. No injuries were reported.
"At this point it's peaceful," Jones said from a county emergency operations center activated to monitor the rallies scattered around the city. "Our concern is strictly public safety and to allow them to assemble peacefully."
Groups of students marched to several locations, including the Las Vegas Strip, and rallied at City Hall and the county courthouse.
"It's an organized protest in that they all knew about it, but it's disorganized in that they don't all have one place to go," Jones said.
The largest number of students rallied outside the Clark County Regional Justice Center in downtown Las Vegas before marching to the nearby federal building, where the crowd snarled Las Vegas Boulevard.
Under a heavy police presence, the students chanted slogans and carried Mexican and American flags as they called for an end to anti-immigrant legislation.
Heleodoro Carillo, 14, an eighth grader at a Las Vegas middle school said he joined the protest after arriving at school "so we can take off the law."
"They want to put the law at the border so Mexicans can't cross," Carillo said.
Ashlee Espinoza, 16, who attends Desert Pines High School, said the government is unfairly targeting Hispanics.
"It's not fair that they just focus on us," said Espinoza, who was born in Santa Maria, Calif., and has live in Las Vegas for nine years. "I'm an American. Some of us we didn't cross the border, the border crossed us."
A police helicopter circled overhead and dozens of officers, including some on horseback and motorcycles monitored the crowd.
Students left as the school day began at campuses in Las Vegas and Henderson, Clark County school spokesman Dave Sheehan said.
"It's all about the immigration issue," Sheehan said. "It's in protest of what they consider to be their complaints with the immigration legislation."
The House has passed legislation limited to tightening borders and making it a crime to be in the United States illegally or to offer aid to illegal immigrants. The Senate is debating the issue.
Schools remained open at campuses throughout the district, the nation's fifth-largest, with 317 schools and 297,000 students.
Administrators had urged parents to keep their children in school Friday, warning that students declared truant could face discipline.
"Thank goodness there's no violence reported," Sheehan said. "But the district is adamant: Kids should stay in school and not get it on their record that they're truant."
More than 1,000 students had walked out Tuesday at campuses around the district and headed for the Strip before police ushered them to a school grandstand for peaceful demonstrations.