Hundreds of people marched two miles through Charlotte Wednesday to voice their support for immigration reform. The Latin American Coalition helped organize and lead the march.
American flags, colorful signs, and white T-shirts were waiting for hundreds who swarmed into Veterans Park for the march.
The large boxes full of shirts were all empty by the time the march started. One of the people handing them out was Silvia Falconi of the Latin American Coalition.
“We had something like 500 T-shirts, and flags: I think we had 500 flags, as well,” Falconi said.
Right before the march started, organizers walked through the crowd with megaphones, calling for the marchers to walk on the sidewalk.
They packed onto the sidewalk, a sea of white shirts stretching back for more than a football field, chanting in Spanish and English.
“No papers! No fear!” they chanted.
Families marched together, with grandparents holding signs and toddlers in strollers. Some marchers are in the U.S. illegally, some are separated from their families, and all were passionate.
“I’m just marching today for all the immigrants in this country,” Mauro Martinez said. “We just want to get out of the shadows.”
“I’m marching so I can keep my mom next to me,” Patsy said.
“We’re marching so people can stop getting deported,” Felix Ramirez said.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement deported roughly 410,000 people last year. The marchers said they hope the immigration reform the "Gang of Eight" senators is working on will keep families from being split by deportations.
As the march continued down Central Avenue, a few people in apartments clapped and yelled, drivers honked their horns and waved, and the marchers kept chanting.
They finished their two-mile trek at Marshall Park in uptown Charlotte, where a band was waiting for the huge crowd.
“The biggest thing for us is the outpouring from the community,” Armando Bellmas said as the band played. He’s a spokesman for the Latin American Coalition, and he says he was overwhelmed by the number of people who turned out.
“And another thing is that everybody who drove by the march all the way here, that two mile stretch, they’ll know: ‘Oh, I saw that, what’s that all about?’ And they get more information about it,” he said.
Bellmas said he hopes next time all those people who saw the march hear about immigration reform in Washington, they’ll think about how it may affect the growing immigrant community in Charlotte.