DALLAS – Thousands of people marched through downtown on Palm Sunday calling for immigration reform among other things.
"You know, there's times when you have to march to get your point across. This is one of those times,” said Roger Rocha, Jr., LULAC National President. "You've got people from all over the state of Texas, Oklahoma and as far away as Washington, D.C. and New York.”
The 2017 Mega March is a gathering this city hasn’t seen in a decade.
"People want to have a say in what's going on in their country. And this is how you do it,” explained Benny de la Vega. He’s an immigrant who became a citizen and volunteered to register people to vote.
The Mega March began at the Cathedral of Guadalupe a little after 2:00 p.m.
The group headed west on Ross Ave., turned south on Griffin St., and then back east on Young St. to Dallas City Hall.
"We are Americans. Nobody can divide us," said Farhat Chisty, a marcher.
The event wasn't supposed to be political but the overtones were obvious.
"I don't believe in borders of any kind. Not physical borders not any type of borders," said a 28-year-old woman from Mexico who is a DACA recipient. She was undocumented when her parents brought her here as a child and has “deferred action” from deportation.
Immigration reform was the main message.
"I was actually expecting a lot more people but you know with all of this craziness going on. With raids going on I think people are afraid. I really think people were afraid to be here today,” added the DACA recipient.
Organizers had hoped to have 100,000 people show up. Dallas Police said 3,200 marched. But many more than that could be seen for blocks. Organizers estimated the turnout was closer to 20,000. The real number is likely somewhere in between.
"What we see today is people coming together to standup for unity,” said U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio.
Outside city hall, where the rally ended, both clergy and political leaders on left issued a call to action; among them Martin Luther King, III.
"So no matter what some politicians do to try to stop and turn the clock back, we're not going back. We're moving forward. We want America to be great for all Americans. Not any one group of people," said King.
But sustaining this energy to the 2018 mid-term election is the biggest test this effort faces.
Dallas Police had heavily armed officers along the parade route, many with AR15 rifles. They even used dump trucks to block streets. It’s the largest high-profile march since the July 7, 2016 massacre.
As a precaution, Dallas Fire-Rescue personnel even wore bullet proof vests. State Troopers and FBI bomb technicians assisted the response, as well.
The last Mega March in 2006 had some 500,000 marchers in downtown Dallas.
Domingo Garcia, an organizer, said this event is peaceful.
"This is a march where we are asking everyone to only wear red, white and blue, for the American flag. To only bring American flags, because this is really about America’s values," Garcia said.
A couple of people were overcome by the heat but there were no incidents requiring police.
By 5:00 p.m. most downtown streets had reopened.