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Jesse Jackson leads march to protest Proposition 209

march October 27, 1997
Web posted at: 11:23 p.m. EST (0423 GMT)

SACRAMENTO, California (Reuters) -- Civil rights leader Jesse Jackson led a march to the California state Capitol on Monday to protest a state law barring affirmative-action programs based on race or sex.

Thousands marched along the Capitol Mall and gathered on the lawns of the Capitol building to hear speeches from opponents of the law passed by California voters last year, known as Proposition 209.

On the opposite side of the Capitol, about 100 people held a rally in support of Proposition 209.

Jackson has campaigned energetically against Proposition 209, which bars preferential treatment based on race or gender in public employment, education and contracting in California.

Jackson told the crowd no state had the right to undermine federal civil rights protections.

"The Department of Justice, the Department of Education and President Clinton must remind California and Gov. (Pete) Wilson that ... no proposition which undermines federal civil rights can prevail," he said.

Jackson also urged the marchers to put pressure on mayors and city councils throughout California not to implement Proposition 209.

A federal appeals court ruled earlier this year that Proposition 209 was constitutional. Opponents have appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The multiracial crowd of marchers, including members of labor groups and Native Americans, waved flags and held up banners with such slogans as "Make the dream a reality. Keep marching forward" and "See you at the barricades, Gov. Wilson."

California's Republican governor, a strong supporter of Proposition 209, was away on vacation.

Police were out in force for the march, which was peaceful.

Ward Connerly, a leading supporter of Proposition 209, called the march "futile."

"Jesse Jackson is asking Californians to turn back the clock on our effort to create a more unified California. He is fighting a losing battle," Connerly said.

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