Tempers flare in heat
Anger mounts at rally; pro-immigration camp shows up to tell its side
By TIM MORAN
BEE STAFF WRITER
James Glenn, above right, of Fremont has his say as groups on both sides of the immigration debate demonstrate Saturday at Briggsmore and McHenry avenues. "You're illegal. Your mama's illegal; your daddy is illegal. Go home!" he yelled at people gathered to counter the protest by Save Our State. Below, a protester who wouldn't give his name holds a sign commenting on terminology. The sign in back translates as "I will never turn in my brothers."
Demonstrators clash at Briggsmore and McHenry avenues Saturday.
James Glenn of Fremont proudly sports his American flag T-shirt. Modesto police had to step in and break up disputes when the shouting and rhetoric got too heated.
The nation's immigration policy was debated Saturday on the northwest corner of Briggsmore and McHenry avenues — frequently nose to nose and punctuated with four-letter epithets. Groups from the polar extremes of the immigration issue demonstrated at midday Saturday, undeterred by the 90-degree heat.
A group called Save Our State has held controversial demonstrations against illegal immigration in Southern California in the past year. It held its first rally in Modesto, advertising it as "our fight to save America." The group has just started a chapter in Modesto, according to Debbie Monk, an events coordinator for the group.
Two other groups, Aztlan Rising and Direct Action Anti-Authoritarians Collective, held a counter demonstration after discovering Save Our State's plan.
Starting around 11 a.m., each side mustered about three dozen supporters with signs, flags, banners and a bullhorn. The groups started on opposite sides of Briggsmore Avenue on the west side of McHenry but soon merged on the northwest corner of the busy intersection. About a dozen Modesto police officers stood by, frequently stepping in to separate the protesters when the rhetoric got heated.
"A lot of our taxes go to welfare payments for illegals," Monk said. "Illegals work under the table for cash and pay no taxes. Many of them have 'anchor babies' so they can stay. It's got to stop." An anchor baby, she explained, is a child born in the United States to illegal immigrants. Children born in the United States have citizenship, creating a path for the parents to stay, Monk said.
Felt need to give other side
Signs carried by the Save Our State side read, "It's not illegal immigration — it's an invasion," "No Amnesty for Illegals" and "Deport Illegals."
Doug Anderson of Direct Action Anti-Authoritarians Collective said his group decided to counter-demonstrate because the Save Our State position is illogical. "They are attacking other working-class people," he said. "All workers need to be in solidarity against the forces affecting our lives. We would all be in a better place no matter what side of the border we are on."
Ricardo Gil Jr. of Aztlan Rising said his group promotes indigenous identity. "They wrongfully call us Hispanics and Latinos," he said. "They forget where we came from. We have the right to live anywhere on the continent. We have lived here 50,000 years." The signs on the counterdemonstration side read, "Columbus was an illegal alien," "Where's your green card, pilgrim?" and "You are on Indian land."
Some of the demonstrators weren't affiliated with any of the groups.
Terry Stewart of Modesto said he came to demonstrate after reading about the issue on a modbee.com forum. Stewart said he was protesting the cost of illegal immigration: "The taxes we pay to ensure that illegal immigrants get a fair education." Illegal immigrants get in-state tuition rates at state schools, but students from other states pay a higher rate, he said. "That's not fair."
Community activist John Mataka of Grayson said he came when he heard the Save Our State group was coming. "We are against that kind of racism and immigrant bashing," he said. "This will be a majority Mexican community soon, and we want to let them know we aren't going to let them come here and talk smack against our Mexican and brown brothers."
Some seemed to have come for the confrontation. James Glenn of Fremont, wearing an American flag T-shirt with the sleeves cut off, instigated several shouting matches.
"You're illegal. Your mama's illegal; your daddy is illegal. Go home!" Glenn yelled at the counter-demonstrators. "You're a queer; your mama's a queer; your daddy's a queer. We all know where you live. Send them home." He was answered with chants of "Europeans, go home." Glenn later described himself as "just a worried American."
Police officers stood by and intervened when the verbal assaults appeared to be veering toward the physical. "We aren't going to let anything happen," Modesto police Sgt. Clint Raymer said. "It will stay peaceful."
Many cars passing by honked in solidarity with one side or the other, some waving American or Mexican flags.
By 2:30 p.m., the demonstrators had left, neither side convinced by the other, and the corner returned to its usual traffic din.