Veteran Latino activist Javier Rodriguez, organizer of the downtown march, insisted the smaller numbers were insignificant to the overall national campaign of securing a path to citizenship for the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in America today. “There are 600,000 women in danger of deportation with 3.3 million children, and we want those united,” he said. “We do not want those families separated by raids and deportation.” Officials attributed the decline in the number of marchers to a number of issues: Absence of threatening legislation such as last year’s ill-fated congressional bill that would have made felons of illegal immigrants; the passive roles taken this year by Spanish disc jockeys, who last year urged attendance at the marches; and warnings to students from school, city and religious leaders to stay in school – urging them to debate the issue in classrooms and not the streets. Marchers praised At City Hall, City Councilwoman Janice Hahn commended the marchers on their passion for a most important issue affecting their families. Then, impressing upon the crowd the importance of gaining citizenship and the right to vote, she said: “We’re going to elect a new president of the United States next year and `she’ may be the person to bring us together around the issue of immigration.” By midafternoon, many protesters joined a second march that had begun in the Third Street and Vermont Avenue area and moved to MacArthur Park for a late afternoon rally. “We can’t just come to rallies. We can’t just be in marches. We’ve got to call offices of Congress people,” Cardinal Roger Mahony told thousands of protesters gathered at the park. Mahony has been an outspoken advocate of the mostly Catholic Latino immigrant community. L.A. school officials reported that only a fraction of the 71,942 students who skipped classes last year missed classes Tuesday. Just 1,480 students were out Tuesday, they said. Even in smaller numbers, the marches again were a spectacle of urban politics – a gigantic peaceful demonstration amid a sea of flags and homemade signs; protesters tooted kazoos, chanted “S se puede!” and “USA!” while waving banners reading “Stop the Raids!” “Immigrants are the Backbone of America” and “We Are Americans, Too!” Among the most moving signs was one carried by 6-year-old Felicidad Torres: “I am an American. Please don’t deport mommy and daddy.” Felicidad’s father, Carlos Torres, is a construction worker who immigrated illegally to the United States from Mexico eight years ago. The next year, he met and married Felicidad’s mother, Concepci n Lara, an immigrant from El Salvador. Felicidad was born in L.A. the following year. “We pay our taxes. We contribute. We’re not on welfare,” said Lara, a maid for an American family on the Westside that gave her the day off to attend the march. “All we want (is) to not live in fear (of deportation), and to one day get our legal papers, maybe even our American citizenship.” Wearing white Like most of the marchers, Felicidad and her family wore white shirts and blouses to symbolize the peaceful nature of the demonstration. Last year’s marches and rallies, whipped up by nationally syndicated Spanish-language radio disc jockeys, met with some success in defusing a short-lived congressional proposal that would have made illegal entry to the country a felony. But this year, two disc jockeys changed their messages. Eduardo Sotelo, known as Piol n, launched a campaign to collect a million letters in support of immigration changes, promising to deliver those letters to Congress himself. Ren n Almend rez Coello, known as El Cucuy, began urging legal residents to become citizens and vote. “Last year’s march was a one-day, once-in-a-lifetime mobilization,” said Mike Garcia, president of Local 1877 of the Service Employees International Union in L.A. Others also said some momentum for this year’s protests softened in the wake of new immigration-reform legislation introduced in March by Reps. Luis V. Gutierrez, D-Ill., and Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., that actually includes citizenship for illegal immigrants. A similar bill is expected in the Senate soon. The Gutierrez-Flake bill calls for allowing millions of undocumented immigrants to become legal residents by leaving the country, then returning. It also allows illegals living in the United States as of June 1, 2006, to remain on six-year work visas. During that time, they must take English and civics lessons and pay a $2,000 fine and back taxes. Last Saturday, President George W. Bush urged Congress in his weekly radio address to come together on immigration, calling it “a critical challenge” before the nation. One of those who listened to – and praised – the president’s radio message was Salvadoran immigrant Juan Romero Mejias, who said he works three jobs so he can one day bring his wife and four children he left behind in his homeland. “I love this country and I, like so many others, have made my choice and am here today to make a statement,” he said. “We love this country, and the opportunities it offers people willing to work hard and sacrifice.” email@example.com (818) 713-3761160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! Speaking to reporters late Tuesday, LAPD Chief William Bratton said 15 of his officers were struck by plastic bottles and other items thrown by a handful of protesters who were “clearly intent to cause a disturbance.” He said there was one arrest made, that the vast majority of protesters were peaceful and he would thoroughly examine reports that the LAPD’s response was excessive. “If officers behaved inappropriately, we will deal with that,” Bratton said. Fire officials said three people were taken to a nearby hospital and others were treated for minor injuries. Police estimated the day’s crowd at about 25,000, a far cry from last year, when two protests drew some 650,000 people and virtually shut down parts of L.A. Thousands of white-shirted immigrants and their supporters marched through downtown Los Angeles and near MacArthur Park on Tuesday, calling for a far-reaching immigration policy that will allow undocumented workers to keep their families together in the United States. Carrying signs, banners and American and Mexican flags, a crowd much smaller than organizers or city officials anticipated took its May Day protest for immigrant workers’ rights to City Hall. Other marches were held in cities from Phoenix to Detroit as part of a nationwide effort. The peaceful demonstrations erupted in chaos at the end of the day, when more than 200 police in riot gear began clearing protesters out of MacArthur Park. Witnesses and news reporters said that with little or no warning, police began firing rubber bullets into the crowd, which included children and families. “(Police) started moving in and forcing them out of the park, people with children, strollers,” said Angela Sambrano, one of the rally’s lead organizers.