Many Latino businesses in Tacoma were shuttered Thursday, part of a nationwide immigrant walk-out.
In some areas, entire strip malls were dark.
“El Antojo Restaurant decided to support the cause One Day Without Mexicans!!!,” a sign on the door of the McKinley Avenue business read. Next-door neighbor Burger Broiler was closed as well.
A steady stream of customers pulled on locked doors at both businesses.
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“It’s ridiculous,” said James Williams of Tacoma. He had just tried to enter Burger Broiler. “If everyone who had an immigrant in their family decided to take the day off the whole community would shut down.”
That was the idea behind the A Day Without Immigrants protest.
Immigrants around the United States stayed home from work and school to demonstrate their importance to America’s economy and its way of life. Many businesses closed in solidarity.
El Jalapeño, a market anchoring the East 72nd Center shopping complex, had its doors locked and a sign announcing the protest.
“They’re closed?” asked a bewildered young man as he stepped from his car in front of the market. “I just want groceries.”
A beauty shop in the same complex, Salon de Belleza, was closed. So was J&J Income Tax, which had a sign that read it was supporting the Hispanic community.
Down the street at East 72nd Plaza, another Latino market and butcher shop, Plaza Guerrero, was closed.
“CLOSED in support of a day with immigrants” a sign read in Spanish.
El Rinconsito, a restaurant at East 72nd and Pacific, had a sign stating it was closed, “In support and solidarity of all immigrants in this country.”
Some Latino businesses were open Thursday. One was El Charrito, a Mexican restaurant on Pacific Avenue, where worker Lorena Arebao hadn’t heard of the protest.
“If I knew that, I wouldn’t come to work,” she said when told of the protest. “It’s my people.”
Fellow worker Angie Mercado had heard of the protest and asked for the day off. Her manager said no, Mercado said through a translator.
Shoppers and hungry diners weren’t the only people caught off guard by the walkout.
A worker from Duck Delivery couldn’t make his delivery to the El Antojo and Burger Broiler restaurants. The company declined to comment on its missed deliveries.
Another delivery man, Jose Verdin, had unloaded a pallet of beverages at the Latino grocery store La Huerta 2 International Market before realizing it was closed. He had to load it back into his truck and get to Los Angeles, he said.
Verdin was supportive of the protest.
“It’s their right to protest,” Verdin said in Spanish. “Not all the people are criminals, many came to work.”
Around the corner, Cecilia Cueto had just arrived at La Huerta with her young son to shop. The Olympia resident, who cares for an elderly woman in Tacoma, hadn’t heard of the protest but supported it.
“I am immigrant,” she said. “I’m Mexican. I need the work.”
Just then another customer, Alma Tello, showed up.
“I heard of it but I didn’t know it was today,” Tello said. “Ay, dios mio.”
Tello had come to buy a tres leches cake for a baby shower. Despite the inconvenience, she was supportive.
“People don’t realize how much immigrants are involved in the community, so it’s a good thing,” Tello said. “But it’s kind of sad that people have to do this to realize it.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.