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Alhambra: And Then They Came

by Leslie Sunday, Jun. 19, 2005 at 4:30 PM

Report from the Alhambra Home Depot Save Our State anti-immigrant demonstration and counter-protest

It was a few minutes after 9:00, and it was already clear that Joe, determinedly grinning, and his ragtag crew from Save Our State had lost their effort to stop Alhambra Home Depot shoppers from supporting the store's hiring practices. What wasn't clear was why the police let most of the Alhambra and Los Angeles counter-demonstrators stand behind and on either side of the small Ventura group, as well as across the street, for more than an hour. Thirty Alhambra, Monterey Park, and Glendale police lined up along Morengo Street facing both groups on the sidewalk, those complaining about Home Depot's community-based hiring practices in front and those supporting it directly behind them and to spilling along the sidewalk on either side.

A hundred and fifty or so day labor supporters had surrounded fewer than twenty SOSers when the police moved the out-of-towners to the south corner of the driveway entrance. Somewhere in the move, the three skinheads with U.S. flag handkerchiefs in their pockets who had stood with the SOSers drifted away, diminishing their number further. By 11:00, the swelling ranks of counter-protestors, now two hundred and fifty or more, filled the north corner, the west side of the street, and even the sidewalk east of small band of anti-Mexican protestors. Unless the SOSers had busloads of supporters on the way, they were outnumbered fifteen to one. A helicopter circled overhead for ten minutes and flew away.

This time the SOSers gave up their trademark sports pants and sundresses of Baldwin Park and Garden Grove for jeans, baseball caps, and one droopy Cat in the Hat hat that mimicked the the U.S. flag. They held up signs declaring "This land was Mexican once and will be American Forever." Their smirking leader, Joe Turner, carried a printed poster that said "This is our land. This is our fight. saveourstate.org" Another sign read "Home Depot Partners with Racist La Raza."

From all sides, chanting supporters of la raza and day workers, mostly local Chicanos and Mexicanos, responded to remarks on the SOS website with homemade placards declaring that "Alhambra Is Not a 'Cesspool'," "Alhambra Is a Racist Free Zone," and "All Work Is Legal in Alhambra." Mexican flags, yellow anti-racism banners, and an anarchist flag waved over the crowd. About every fifth car honked their support for the chanting locals and their allies. On the back of one T-shirt from Cerritos College MEChA was the observation "They call us violent cause we're no longer silent."

The counter-protestors took up a collection for the day workers watching from the back of the parking lot and the three green-hatted National Lawyers Guild observers delivered the collection. Telemundo, NBC Channel 2, and ABC Channel 7, roamed the crowd and waited in their vans, waiting for something to happen.

Suddenly smirking Joe appeared among the counter-protestors on the west side of the street, vainly roiling those in front until he was escorted back to his followers across the street by an Alhambra sergeant, slapping Joe on the back as they crossed.

At 11:15, the police distributed riot kits and helmets among their ranks and stepped forward toward the counter-demonstrators on the west side of the street. At 11:35, the police escorted two late SOSers to their companions. The sun was nearing its apex, and the warm weather hinted at the heat of summer, but today was not the day for a showdown.

And then they came. In crisp white t-shirts and carpenters' caps, homemade signs held high, twenty jornaleros from San Gabriel Valley appeared in the south, marching toward Save Our State. The police stopped them briefly until counter-protestors called from behind the cops to let the workers pass. The crowd roared as the laborers joined the eastside counter-demonstrators and held up their messages: "Jornaleros unidos del Monte" and "Fue, es y será de México." The contingent of jornaleros and the eastside demonstrators crossed the street to cheers of "El pueblo unido jamás será vencido!"

The re-invigorated counter-protestors shouted "You're the problem!" to the anti-immigrant group, and by 12:15 most of them had disappeared into the parking lot. One stayed and rolled up his flag, and Joe, looking for all the world like a captain on a sinking ship save for the perpetual sneer, faced the protestors with his sign rolled up and bent in one hand until he, too, drifted down the sidewalk.

The jornaleros took the bullhorn to thank the crowd and the organizers, the San Gabriel Valley Friends of Peace and Justice. Announcements followed for Baldwin Park, Chicano Park, and the summer border actions. As the police walked to their cars I shouted to one, "We're not so scary. What's with the riot gear?" He said, "Better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it." I answered, "But it makes everyone edgy." Like a recording, the cop behind him repeated with the same intonation, "It's better to have it and not need it."

On the way to my car, I passed a Home Depot shopper talking on his cellphone as he loaded lumber onto the roof of this van. ". . . people who are extremists and don't want the Hispanics here" was all I caught.

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add your comments

Listed below are the 10 latest comments of 31 posted about this article.
These comments are anonymously submitted by the website visitors.
Support Home Depot The Mórrígan Sunday, Jun. 19, 2005 at 5:56 PM
Support Home Despot? Render Sunday, Jun. 19, 2005 at 6:19 PM
Shopping Decisions johnk Sunday, Jun. 19, 2005 at 7:00 PM
Again, Patriot Sunday, Jun. 19, 2005 at 7:16 PM
Is this Home Depot union? San Franciscan Sunday, Jun. 19, 2005 at 8:01 PM
...From Far Away Too johnk Monday, Jun. 20, 2005 at 2:04 AM
Home depot? Maru Monday, Jun. 20, 2005 at 4:31 AM
If you follow the links Render Monday, Jun. 20, 2005 at 6:31 AM
check on home depot / racists take up space analyze Monday, Jun. 20, 2005 at 7:24 AM
Home Depot=WalMart Union Power Monday, Jun. 20, 2005 at 12:18 PM
I Should Know Chris Monday, Jun. 20, 2005 at 1:29 PM
I own a business BushAdmirer Monday, Jun. 20, 2005 at 1:43 PM
A New Plan 1planet1People Monday, Jun. 20, 2005 at 5:19 PM
No American Flags on your side SoS Rules Monday, Jun. 20, 2005 at 10:30 PM
Re: A New Plan SoS Rules Monday, Jun. 20, 2005 at 10:35 PM
OneEyedMan KPC Tuesday, Jun. 21, 2005 at 7:30 AM
Not nice to threaten people man dontcarryinpublic Tuesday, Jun. 21, 2005 at 2:37 PM
Cheers for courage Fredric L. Rice Tuesday, Jun. 21, 2005 at 6:28 PM
Weasel Words johnk Wednesday, Jun. 22, 2005 at 1:29 AM
Re: Flags johnk Wednesday, Jun. 22, 2005 at 1:31 AM
How does left represent American values when it's Anti-American? Happy Gilmore Wednesday, Jun. 22, 2005 at 5:46 AM
TOMMY THE TORRY !!! SOS=NASZIS!!! Wednesday, Jun. 22, 2005 at 10:53 AM
LUPE MORENO IDENTIFIED SOS=NAZIS Wednesday, Jun. 22, 2005 at 11:24 AM
another pic of LUPE MORENO, NAZI/SOS COLLABORATOR SOS=NAZIS Friday, Jun. 24, 2005 at 10:44 AM
another pic of Tommy the Torry, SOS infiltrator SOS=NAZIS Friday, Jun. 24, 2005 at 11:38 AM
Mr. Tom Sunday, Jul. 03, 2005 at 5:52 PM

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