CHICAGO (AP) — Immigrant rights activists chanting "Boycott Arizona" and "Reform, Not Racism" demonstrated Thursday outside Chicago's Wrigley Field as the Cubs opened a four-game series against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Protesters are upset over Arizona's new immigration law that makes it a state crime to be in the U.S. illegally and lets police question anyone they suspect of being an illegal immigrant. Activists nationwide have called for a boycott of Arizona tourism and businesses, including its athletic teams.
"We are here today to send a clear message to the state of Arizona that we are going to boycott" until lawmakers repeal the immigration law and stop criminalizing immigrants, said Pastor Jose Landaverde of Our Lady of Guadalupe Anglican Church in Chicago, who was among the more than three dozen protesters outside Wrigley Field. A small plane carrying a banner criticizing the law also circled over Wrigley.
Protesters said they've faxed a letter to Cubs management asking that the team's spring training be moved out of Arizona. Cubs spokesman Peter Chase said the team was declining comment.
Immigration reform groups said they targeted the Diamondbacks, in part, because the team's owners have supported Republican politicians who backed the Arizona law. The team said in a statement that isn't the case.
"Although D-backs' Managing General Partner Ken Kendrick has donated to Republican political candidates in the past ... Kendrick personally opposes State Bill 1070," the team said. "The D-backs have never supported State Bill 1070 and have never taken political stances."
Diamondbacks players and coaches had little to say about the issue Thursday beyond a few wisecracks. Backup infielder Augie Ojeda, who was born in Los Angeles, joked about changing his last name to Jones.
"We're here to play baseball. I'm going to stay out of the political arena," said Arizona manager A.J. Hinch.
Most fans filing into the stadium Thursday seemed bewildered by the protest, and others said they opposed the mixing of sports and politics.
"I think it makes their cause look silly," Cubs fan Tom McGrath said. "Our economy is in a recession, boycotting states doesn't seem very good."
Protesters said they plan to return to Wrigley Field for the rest of the series.