Metro

‘Salsa Shutdown’ protest at Downtown Crossing

Rodrigo Saavedra and Gloribell Mota took part in the “Salsa Shutdown” for immigrant rights on Saturday.

Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

Rodrigo Saavedra and Gloribell Mota took part in the “Salsa Shutdown” for immigrant rights on Saturday.

Saturday afternoon shopping in Downtown Crossing took an unusual turn when a “Salsa Shutdown” filled the Primark and TJ Maxx stores to demonstrate the spending power of undocumented immigrants.

More than 100 people danced into the stores, swinging their hips to pulsing Latino music, in the protest organized by Cosecha, an immigrants rights group. The stores were chosen because many immigrants shop at them, organizers said.

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“What we’re doing here is we’re showing . . . there’s not a business or a space that can’t survive without immigrants,” said Rodrigo Saavedra of East Boston, speaking into a microphone as dancers gathered outside TJ Maxx on Washington Street.

Saavedra, 23, a native of Peru, helped to organize the event, which also aimed to draw attention to the plight of 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States.

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“If there are this many people here today, imagine what we could do with 11 million,” said Dharani Persaud, 21, an organizer from Minnesota who attends Wellesley College.

Jaylean Sawyer, 16, of Boston, said many immigrant families are fearful of President-elect Donald Trump’s hard-line proposals, such as mass deportation, for undocumented immigrants.

“We don’t believe in [Trump’s] demands at all,” said Sawyer, who said her family is from Puerto Rico.

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As they flooded the stores, dancers waved #SalsaShutdown signs, and chanted “Migrant boycott!” Prior to starting, Cosecha hosted a 30-minute lesson on the steps of a Brighton church, Saavedra.

Salsa dancing was chosen for the protest because it is joyful, and represents the cultural vibrancy Latino immigrants have brought with them to the United States, participants said.

Inside TJ Maxx, Boston police officers had warned the swarm of salsa dancers that they would be arrested if they blocked entrances or exits.

A TJ Maxx store manager and Primark officials declined to comment on the event.

As shoppers strolled through Downtown Crossing, some paused to ask about the gathering of people wearing Cosecha and “Migrant Boycott” shirts.

A man who gave his name only as Mahmoud A. said that the group’s support of immigrants, and the hard work they do, resonates with him, as he is from Egypt.

“There is dancing too!” he said as participants began to swing to music played through a transportable speaker. “That’s awesome.”

Nicole Fleming can be reached at nicole.fleming@globe.com.
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