Protesters nationwide vented their anger over a new Arizona law to crack down on illegal immigrants by calling on President Barack Obama to immediately take up their cause for federal immigration reform.
From Los Angeles to Washington D.C., activists, families, students and even politicians marched, practiced civil disobedience and "came out" about their citizenship status in the name of rights for immigrants, including the estimated 12 million living illegally in the U.S.
The marches in San Francisco and San Jose remained peaceful where about 2,000 people added their voice to demand rights for immigrants. People in both parts of the Bay Area declared their "solidarity with the immigrant communities of Arizona," Diana Macasa who organized the event in the City said.
"We can't wait anymore, or we're going to have more laws like Arizona's," Ramon Cardona said.
Obama once promised to tackle immigration reform in his first 100 days, but has pushed back that timetable several times. He said this week that Congress may lack the "appetite" to take on immigration after going through a tough legislative year. However, Obama and Congress could address related issues, like boosting personnel and resources for border security, in spending bills this year.
A congressman was among 35 people arrested during a protest at the White House. U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, a Democrat from Illinois, was taking part in a civil disobedience demonstration.
Protests elsewhere were largely peaceful. No arrests were reported at most demonstrations; two were arrested near the march route in Los Angeles, but police said neither suspect appeared to be connected to the rally.
Police said 50,000 rallied in Los Angeles, where singer Gloria Estefan kicked off a massive downtown march. Estefan spoke in Spanish and English, proclaiming the United States is a nation of immigrants.
"We're good people," the Cuban-born singer said atop a flatbed truck. "We've given a lot to this country. This country has given a lot to us."
Anger, particularly among immigrant rights activists, has been building since last week when Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed the legislation. The law requires local and state law enforcement to question people about their immigration status if there's reason to suspect they're in the country illegally. It also makes it a state crime to be in the United States illegally.
The law's supporters say it's necessary because of the federal government's failure to secure the border, but critics contend it encourages racial profiling and is unconstitutional.
"It's racist," said Donna Sanchez, a 22-year-old U.S. citizen living in Chicago whose parents illegally crossed the Mexican border. "I have papers, but I want to help those who don't."
Organizers estimated about 20,000 gathered at a park on Chicago's West Side and marched, but police said about 8,000 turned out.
"I want to thank the governor of Arizona because she's awakened a sleeping giant," said labor organizer John Delgado, who attended a rally in New York where authorities estimated 6,500 gathered.
Chicago's event resembled something between a family festival -- food vendors strolled through with pushcarts -- and a political demonstration with protesters chanting "Si se puede," Spanish for "Yes we can." A group of undocumented students stood on a stage at the park and "came out" regarding their immigration status.
Juan Baca was among those students. Baca, 19, whose parents brought him from Mexico illegally when he was 4 months old, said he has had to drop out of college and work several times already because he can't qualify for financial aid.
"It's been a struggle," he said. "I missed the mark by four months."
In Arizona, police in Tucson said an immigrant rights rally there drew at least 5,000 people. Several thousand people gathered in Phoenix for a demonstration Saturday evening.
A smattering of counterprotesters showed up at rallies. In Tucson, a few dozen people showed up in support of the new law and Brewer. A barricade separated about two dozen counterprotesters from a pro-immigrant rights rally in San Francisco.
Counterprotesters there carried signs that read, "We Support Arizona" and "We Need More Ice At This Fiesta," an apparent reference to the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.
May 1 -- International Workers Day -- is a traditional date for political demonstrations. Immigration advocates latched onto that tradition in 2006, when more than 1 million people across the country -- half a million alone in Chicago -- protested federal legislation that would have made being an illegal immigrant a felony. That legislation ultimately failed.