Hundreds march through downtown for making Fresno a sanctuary city

A few hundred people gathered at Fresno City Hall on Saturday afternoon for a march downtown protesting the presence of federal immigration agents in the city and Mayor Lee Brand’s decision against making Fresno a sanctuary city.

The march trailed 1.7 miles around downtown to the jail, police department, the offices of Rep. Jim Costa, U.S. Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) holding facility.

A supporter of President Donald Trump came out early in the march, said Luis Ojeda, one of the march organizers, and although there were a few confrontations, the march was mostly peaceful. The only police interaction was when officers warned organizers to keep to the sidewalks for safety.

Cars honked in support of marchers when they neared the Selland Arena chanting, “No ban, no wall! Sanctuary for all!” And “Keep ICE out of Fresno!”

Ojeda said he wants to see change at the federal level to keep undocumented immigrants safe from deportation. “We want to see all elected officials do something.”

The march ended with a prayer and marchers gathering on the top of the stairs above the fountain at City Hall, where they raised signs and held flags above the water.

While Ojeda estimated the crowd at 300 to 400 people, another organizer with the Brown Berets estimated it at more than 500.

Fresno City College student and marcher Alexandria Ramos-O’Casey said the turnout was good, especially because rain was forecast Saturday. She hopes the march will lead to progress for immigrant rights.

“I have people in my life too afraid to come out today,” she said. “We want them to know we love (them) and care.”

Allyson Smith, who has lived in Fresno for four years, said she used to work on the Arizona-Mexico border doing environmental rehabilitation. She marched the route alone and said she had compassion for people who crossed the border.

“I had a profound experience when working on the border,” she said. “On the Colorado River, there are millions of footprints. I wasn’t mad at those people. They risked their lives to come here.”

Ashleigh Panoo: 559-441-6010, @AshleighPan