At least people are becoming more and more LESS passive with the energy. Darfur issue. Immigrant issue. Power to the people. Face truth and reality and then get up off the couch and actually do something about it.
LOS ANGELES (AFP) - More than one million mostly Hispanic immigrants rallied across the United States after launching a historic economic boycott to demand rights for millions of illegal workers.
"We can do it!" and "USA, USA!" chanted throngs of white-clad protesters that marched in cities like Los Angeles and Chicago, staying away from work, school and shops across the nation.
The unprecedented one-day action, broadly supported by the 40-million-strong Latino community and dubbed the "Day Without Immigrants," was part of a mounting but peaceful campaign against plans for a legal clampdown on illegal entrants.
Here in Los Angeles at least 600,000 people marched in two major rallies, while more than 400,000 others rallied in the midwestern city of Chicago.
The Los Angeles Police Department said that at least 400,000 people had attended an early evening rally while another 250,000 took part in a protest earlier in the day.
It was unclear how many protesters had attended both rallies, but the crowd count appeared conservative as reporters on the scene estimated the crowd at the earlier rally at more than 500,000, while organisers claimed that around 1.5 million people had taken part.
Los Angeles, which is almost 50 percent Hispanic, has been a focal point for weeks of protests that some analysts are starting to compare to the civil rights movement of the 1960s. There were more than 500,000 people at a Los Angeles protest on March 25.
"I'm here in solidarity with all those people who have crossed (the border) and died and for all the people who are here and should be given the right to everything that we have on this land," said protester Rachel Sanchez.
"Today we march, tomorrow we vote and if they deport us we will jump over the border fence," chanted the marchers as they waved US and Mexican flags.
Large swathes of Los Angeles were shut down by the boycott and almost-festive protests that were punctuated by drumbeats and songs.
The boycott left the second largest US city's usually snarled freeways empty and virtually halted deliveries to and from its port.
Los Angeles-based welder Mosses Gomez, 29, took the day off work, costing him around 100 dollars, to protest.
"The government knows now that we have a voice and our voice has to be heard," he said. "We still come through and make America what it is now. Without us, the government's nothing."
Around 75,000 demonstrators turned out in the Colorado city of Denver, while tens of thousands of others also turned out in New York, Atlanta, San Francisco, Oakland, San Diego and in the state of Florida.
Boycott organisers called on supporters to stay away from work, keep children out of school and boycott stores to support increased rights for the estimated 11.5 million undocumented workers.
Companies that rely on low-wage Hispanic labour closed factories, while immigrant-owned stores shut down and fast food restaurants cut back their operations.
The strike call divided the community and many immigrants said they feared for their jobs if they did stay away.
President George W. Bush has spoken out against the boycott.
In Chicago, Johanna Holanda, 17, stayed away from school, and marched carrying her baby son, Eric, and a banner declaring: "We are workers not criminals."
"I am here to fight, to help my family, and for their rights," she told AFP.
Illinois Senator Barack Obama, whose father was born in Kenya, spoke at the rally of the need to "lift people out of the shadows" and onto a path towards citizenship.
"To those who think we can simply close off the borders and deport, let me say this: there is no reason to fear people who have come here for the same reason as generations of Americans. They want a better future for their children," he said.
Food giants such as Tyson Food Inc. and Cargill Foods said they had closed about 20 plants between them across the nation. Gallo Wines in California also said it was closing some operations.
All the companies rely heavily on low cost immigrant labour. Many companies, including the McDonald's fast food giant, said they sympathised with the aims of the protesters.
But many Hispanic workers did not take part saying they feared for their jobs.
The "We Are America" coalition -- which includes the Roman Catholic Church -- and some Hispanic politicians encouraged people to work normally and join demonstrations.
The campaign gathered momentum after the US House of Representatives passed a bill in December proposing making illegal entry a crime.
Bush however favours a law which would set up a "guest" worker status and open the way to citizenship but also step up border security.