Monday, June 17, 2024

Protests Across the Country Mark AZ Law’s First Day

From the Brooklyn Bridge to Wilshire Boulevard, people angry over Arizona’s anti-immigration law that went into effect today are taking to the streets.

While yesterday’s ruling by Judge Bolton placed an injunction against some of the more controversial aspects of SB 1070, the remaining sections officially become law became law at midnight.

Immigration advocates from around the country travelled to Arizona to participate in demonstrations and acts of civil disobedience as well as organizing local protests in cities across the country.

In New York, hundreds of demonstrators marched across the Brooklyn Bridge into Manhattan to protest the new law. Organized by church leaders, immigrant advocates and labor groups, the protesters shared a belief that despite a brief reprieve, the fight is far from over.

“It’s a good start, but it’s not enough,” said Rafael Samanez, 32, of Harlem, director of the Bronx-based group Vamos Unidos, which advocates for street vendors’ rights.

“Whatever happens in Arizona eventually makes its way to New York.”

Michael Ellick, associate minister at the Judson Memorial Church in Greenwich Village said he was opposed to the “hatefulness” that has come from some of the bill’s supporters, saying, “In the Bible, no rule is more often mentioned than welcome the stranger among you.”

The New York group was met by a much smaller counter protest waving Arizona flags and yelling at the demonstrators to “go home”.

One of these counter-protesters, Jim Behan, argued that undocumented workers are, “undermining the American way of life” and that, “They should not be in this country.”

Another, Norman Coben, was quick to add, “This has nothing to do with racism whatsoever.”

On the other side of the country, about 200 protesters blocked traffic on Los Angeles’ Wilshire Boulevard, a major thoroughfare.

Police moved in to arrest those who had chained themselves together with plastic pipes and handcuffs to protest the new Arizona law. Traffic was shut down for several hours.

And at the place where the debate began, several hundred marched to the state capitol in Phoenix in the early morning hours to stage a peaceful demonstration and an organized act of disobedience expressing their anger over Gov. Jan Brewer’s actions.

Alfredo Gutierrez, a former AZ state senator and one of those who joined the march and was arrested said, “We live here in a climate of fear,” said “The context of Arizona is foreign to this country. This is basically a nation that’s become hostile to its own people.”

Much of the anger was also directed at Maricopa County sheriff Joseph Arpaio who has gained nationally notoriety for his hard-stance approach and all out assault on the Latino community. He pledged to conduct one of his controversial “sweeps” today which involves ordering his deputies fan out through immigrant neighborhoods, stopping people for sometimes minor infractions and checking their immigration status.

Most protests were peaceful with participants wearing white, carrying religious pictures and singing hymns in Spanish. However, in the small Arizona community of Guadalupe, about 10 miles outside of Phoenix, protesters formed a human blockade on the main road that kept cars and public buses from passing. The group dispersed when sheriff deputies arrived.

Andrew Sanchez, of Guadalupe and a community activist who organized the blockade said, “This is a symbolic gesture to show that we will not give our community over to the sheriff’s office. For years, people in this town have been subjected to the kind of racial profiling that SB 1070 essentially gives legal sanction to, and we are not going stand by and let it happen.”

Read more: DNA Info

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