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Tuesday, September 5, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Hundreds unite in march for array of causes

Seattle Times staff reporter

At the beginning, the activists demanding immigration rights numbered only a few hundred.

But block by block, as marchers crept through Seattle's Central Area on Monday night, the crowds grew and the signs diversified.

Marchers demanded an end to the war in Iraq, called for abortion rights and even used the March for Human Rights and Economic Justice as a chance for some political campaigning.

By the end of the two-mile march, more than 1,000 people wound into the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Park.

They spent much of the evening listening to speeches about immigration rights and heard from 1st Lt. Ehren Watada, a Fort Lewis soldier who faces possible court-martial for refusing to return to Iraq because he believes the war is illegal.

"We're looking to renew the civil-rights movement," said Jorge Quiroga, of El Comité Pro-Amnistia General y Justicia Social, an immigrant-advocacy group that organized the march. "It's about social justice. This march is a call for solidarity."

Quiroga, who has been behind several of the city's recent immigration-rights marches, said his group sees the power in uniting with others who are upset over U.S. foreign policy, poverty, racism and other political causes.

The immigration-rights marches were triggered by proposed federal legislation that would tighten the borders and make being in the country illegally a felony.

Armando Ramirez, whose 4-year-old nephew, Kevin Jimenez, rode on his shoulders as he walked, said he wants equality for Mexican immigrants.

"We need to get fair rights, to get a better life for everyone," said Ramirez, who moved to Seattle from Mexico seven years ago.

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Ramirez, a manager at a First Hill McDonald's, said more than a half-dozen of his co-workers also were marching.

Eleven grandmothers, members of The Raging Grannies Action League, sang nursery rhymes and children's songs rewritten to reflect their call for better mental-health care and opposition to the war in Iraq.

The grandmothers, dressed in long floral skirts, hats, boas and shawls, caused a bottleneck at East Cherry Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Way as people photographed and videotaped their performances.

"We sing for peace and justice for all," said Carolyn Hale, 72, of Seattle. "We have a lot to sing about."

While the marchers pressed through the Central Area, neighbors clustered on porches and yards and cheered in support. Marchers carried signs that read "God doesn't make borders" and yelled into megaphones in both Spanish and English. Several marchers said they didn't know what they were saying in Spanish, but recited the slogans regardless.

"I agree with all of the things this march is about," said Linda Ellsworth, a preschool teacher from Bellevue. She carried a rainbow peace flag. Ellsworth said she marched in support of "putting money toward human resources and not war."

Though dozens of police officers on bicycles and motorcycles rode with the procession, private security also was on hand for the march.

Seattle police spokesman Rich Pruitt said no arrests were made.

Jennifer Sullivan: 206-464-8294 or jensullivan@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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