Noon-hour visitors to Cesar Chavez Plaza were able to view more than just a farmer’s market Wednesday.
They also witnessed about 20 activists and members of the media in a press conference announcing the "Stop Lou Dobbs" campaign created by the national Latino community group, www.presente.org.
The group formed as a response to anti-Latino sentiment in the media, starting with who they feel is the worst offender: CNN’s Lou Dobbs. According to the group’s website, www.bastadobbs.com, Dobbs uses his news program "Lou Dobbs Tonight" to spread false information about immigrants and Latinos.
Held only hours before CNN debuts a four-hour documentary called "Latino in America," the group came together to challenge what it called "CNN’s hypocrisy."
"I think that CNN can’t continue to present this dichotomous view of Latinos as strong people and then (have Dobbs) trash our heritage," said Rafael Aguilera of Sacramento’s La Raza network.
Gathering around the statue of Cesar Chavez, several of the speakers included Sacramento’s Chicano Consortium director Efren Guttierrez, CSUS ethnic studies professor Eric Vega and Sacramento’s Council on American-Islamic Relations director Basim Elkarra.
"The location has always been symbolic of Chavez, a humanitarian who fought for all of us, at the center of our hearts," Guttierrez said.
"Lou Dobbs and others have been spreading hatred through the airways," he said in a speech to the small group of local media and gatherers.
A press release from www.bastadobbs.com said that out of 140 broadcast hours from Jan. 1 to July 23 of this year, 77 hours of "Lou Dobbs Tonight" included segments on immigrants. The website stated, "Dobbs helps popularize the myth that Latino immigrants flood the U.S. with disease (and) a third of our prison system is made up of illegal aliens." The website states both claims are not true.
It also said that Dobbs promoted extremist groups such as Federation for American Immigration Reform and The Minutemen on his show.
"Incitement (of hate) leads to hate crimes," Elkarra said. "Organizations like CNN have a responsibility not to support hate."
"Dobbs hides behind the first amendment, and his speech leads to an increase in attacks against Latinos," Vega said.
Local photographer Francisco Dominguez said he thinks Latinos have suffered racism since this country’s inception.
"(Racism) has no business on television (posed) as news," Dominguez said. "There needs to be checks on the program, (especially when) the No. 1 victims of hate crimes are Latinos."
Rob Griffith, a local reporter from Capitol Television News Service, said that while he’s never watched Lou Dobbs’ show, the Stop Lou Dobbs campaign is misdirected.
"The people behind (Stop Lou Dobbs) misunderstand how the first amendment works," he said. "Efforts to silence opposition violates American freedoms."
Guttierrez explained that www.presente.org has already received 70,000 signatures on a petition to pull Dobbs off the air, but the goal is 100,000. Though Guttierrez urged Latinos and others to watch the CNN program airing tonight, Domiguez said that he was ready to boycott CNN entirely.
"CNN will understand that," he said. "It’s the same thing that Chavez did with the grape growers. He was a master organizer."
Guttierrez said that he would watch "Latino in America" out of respect for the people whom the program features. He mentioned that CNN is the most trusted name in news, but added "if this is how CNN builds trust, (they) will lose it."