Phoenix: Several hundred activists have marched through central Phoenix as a toned down new Arizona immigration law went into effect, sparking a tense standoff with riot police in which about two dozen people were arrested.
Arizona Governor Jan Brewer appealed against a judge`s injunction stripping the most contentious sections from the legislation, as angry protestors were met by scores of police in riot gear.
Civil rights groups marched through Phoenix, the capital of Arizona, to denounce the new law, even though a judge has temporarily stripped it of key powers allowing police to spot check the immigration status of all suspects.
Judge Susan Bolton ruled on Wednesday that those powers would place a burden on legal resident aliens living in Arizona, where one in three of the 6.6 million people is foreign-born and an estimated 460,000 are illegal immigrants.
Protestors urged schools, town and city governments and local police departments not to comply with the law, which they say amounts to ethnic profiling.
Waving Mexican and US flags, the activists marched on the courthouse and the offices of tough county sheriff Joe Arpaio, brandishing banners demanding ‘Stop the Raids, No More Deportations’ and ‘Stop Targeting Immigrants Now’.
About a dozen demonstrators chained themselves to the metal doors of the Maricopa County jail until sheriff`s deputies emerged from the building to take them inside, a report said.
Arpaio warned that those causing disturbances would be arrested, and Phoenix authorities said that about two dozen people had been detained.
"We`re going to hit certain areas valley-wide, which includes cities, that we feel that the human smuggling is taking place," he told reporters.
Activists accused the authorities of fostering "a climate of hate”.
"They`re not hiding their intentions, and we intend to resist," said Alfredo Gutierrez, a former state senator and activist with the Somos America rights group.
At the end of the protest, demonstrators gathered at Cesar Chavez Plaza, across from city hall. There was a feeling of quiet celebration, with shouts and cheers as passing cars honked to show support.