WASHINGTON: The immigration rights marches that swept the nation on April 10 were a remarkable example of grassroots organizing, propelled through more than 120 cities by word of mouth more than strong central direction.
"It was one of the most bizarre experiences," said Gabriela Lemus, director of policy and legislation for the League of United Latin American Citizens, part of the National Capitol Immigration Coalition (NCIC), the loose confederation of groups leading the organizing.
Late last month, the coalition called for a national "day of action" on April 10.
"At that time, we had nine cities, and were struggling to find a tenth," Lemus recalled. "The next thing I know, we had 150."
In less than a month, the plan spread through personal e-mails, phone conversations, and text messages to various local groups in cities across the US. The local groups took it upon themselves to organize marches in their own areas, with central, national organizing consisting of little more than raucous conference calls with more than 100 groups at once.
"It was not top down, it was often bottom up," said Lemus.
The day itself saw hundreds of thousands of marchers in several different cities. Total participation was estimated to be around 2 million.
All media relations duties were handled by volunteer media specialists from the various local coalitions, Lemus said.
Avril Smith, a spokesperson for the Service Employees International Union, another key coalition member, said the NCIC is planning a national conference this summer to determine its next moves. The coalition hopes to expand its voter registration work in the coming months.