L.A. Students March for Cesar Chavez Holiday

Hundreds of high school students marched through downtown Los Angeles Friday, demanding national and state holidays celebrating the achievements of civil rights activist Cesar Chavez.

"We're marching to tell the mayor and tell the city the Cesar Chavez holiday has to be honored," said Issamar Camacho, an 11th grade student at Roosevelt High School. "This day doesn't just represent Chavez but every Latino, and we're not going to be ignored and treated as invisible any longer."

Cesar Chavez Day in California falls on March 31, his birthday. California is one of eight states that honor Chavez with holidays. State government offices and colleges observed the holiday this year by closing March 30, but public schools remained open.

"In 2000, the Cesar Chavez holiday was made a state holiday in the state of California, but schools were kept open in Los Angeles," said Shanta Driver, spokesperson for By Any Means Necessary, the immigrant rights group behind the protest. "It needs to be made clear Latinos are an equal part of this society."

Last year, thousands of students walked out of their schools, jamming up a major Los Angeles freeway before arriving at City Hall. Friday's march was on a far smaller scale but choreographed with chanting in Spanish and the waving of Mexican flags on the steps leading to City Hall. It made for a spectacle that would be hard to miss for those inside.

Scores of police were present but the atmosphere remained unthreatening as students took turns using a megaphone to rally the crowd.

Chavez is regarded as one of America's great civil rights leaders. His path toward becoming a pioneering labor leader began in 1952 when he joined the Community Services Organization. For the next three decades, Chavez worked tirelessly toward improving working conditions and wages for minority workers.

The esteem in which the work Chavez did is held was illustrated by 16-year-old Jevon Cochran, who flew in from Detroit, purely for the rally.

"Before Chavez, Latinos were viewed as invisible," said Cochran, who raised the funds to pay for the flight in upscale Detroit neighborhoods. "He represents the struggle for Latino equality, and it's insane this holiday is not recognized by every school, every workplace and every government office in this state."

A spokesperson for the Los Angeles Unified School District said officials were aware of the planned protest and had requested that students remain in class. However, for those attending the protest, class was the last thing on their minds.

"We're going to get in trouble, but you've got to fight for something that really means something to you," Culver City High student Dylan Martinez told ABC News. "We want to be first-class citizens, not second, and it means more than anything to me.

"This is a dream. We're living it, we're making history," said Martinez.

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