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Wednesday, Feb. 11, 2009 at 8:25 AM
On Saturday, February 6th, 2009 at least 300, and by some estimates possibly as many as 500, people turned out in the city of Riverside California to demand an end to the raids, harassment, and racial profiling increasingly being conducted by US Border Patrol agents against the residents of our local communities and workplaces
Participating were organizers, spokes people, and protesters from a number of local immigrant rights organizations, student groups, local churches, human rights organizations, labor organizations, concerned residents and others. In all, at least 8 organizations participated in making this event possible.(1)
The majority of those in attendance seemed to be residents of the IE (Riverside and San Bernardino counties), but I spoke to at least one individual that had had made the trip all the way from Los Angeles to demonstrate his support and solidarity. The ethnic demographics of the protesters was mainly Chicano/Mexicano, but a good number of people of other ethnicities also took part in the march in the best spirit of inter-ethnic solidarity. The protesters ranged in age from very young children accompanying their parents, to the elderly, and every age in between.
At the initial staging point of the demonstration, which was located at the City hall in downtown Riverside, presentations and speeches were given by several speakers from the community and various participating organizations. These described the dire situation that immigrants, and suspected immigrants (I.e. basically anyone with brown-skin), face due to the daily workplace and community raids conducted throughout the IE by armed Border Patrol agents. Mention was also made of the recent discovery of a unmarked and hidden Border Patrol facility in the city of Riverside and of the official policy regarding monthly arrest quotas on the part of the Border Patrol . These two discoveries are what initially prompted the organizers, the community and it’s supporters to come together for Saturdays demonstration.
After the speeches at the Riverside City Hall had concluded, the participants then marched together in a large peaceful procession for several miles to the final rallying point across the street from the once clandestine Border Patrol facility. While marching the protesters displayed colorful signs and banners in support of those persecuted by the system of national frontiers and xenophobic laws. The protesters also sung songs and occasionally chanted slogans in support of those oppressed by the raids and deportations that have divided and separated so many families. In the best spirit of solidarity the participants in the march were considerate and respectful towards one another, and also towards pedestrians, motorists, and the community at large.
At one point, about half-way to the march destination, it begin to rain, but the marchers remained unfazed and covered themselves from the downpour as best they could, shared umbrellas when possible, and continued on to the rallying point while a few well prepared and considerate organizers handed out free plastic rain ponchos to those participating in the march. Along the way we received many cheers as signs of solidarity and goodwill from passing motorists and pedestrians. On a more ominous note, a friend was later to inform me that a resident had unfurled a large confederate flag from a second story apartment window as our procession had passed by. However, this display of bigotry was the only negative incident that I was to be made aware of involving those living along the march route during the protest.
When the procession arrived at the final rallying point, which was located immediately across the street from the once clandestine Border Patrol facility, we were confronted by the sight of a group of about 30 or so members of the Minutemen organization. This group appeared to consist mainly of middle aged and elderly folks, by appearances mostly white, but with a couple conspicuous people of color among their small isolated group. The self-proclaimed ‘minutemen’ busied themselves waving about banners with pro-Migra and anti-immigrant slogans on them. One of them carried a sign that stated, “I Support American Workers”, apparently the concept of international solidarity among the working class has escaped the members of this xenophobic and nativist organization. Unfazed, the protesters refused to engage the Minutemen in acts of confrontation, this even after a few of the Minutemen crossed into the street to yell and berate the pro-immigrant rights protesters and their cause.
At the final rallying point more speeches were given. An Aztec dance troupe and bands provided entertainment. People joined together in dancing and in the singing of songs. And the participants gathered in a circle and joined hands as a display of solidarity with those persecuted by our nations unjust immigration policy.
Demonstrations such as this, and other actions in support of immigrants,
are more vital then ever as police departments in the IE, and beyond, are apparently showing an ever greater willingness to work with Border Patrol agents in the processing of those arrested for even minor offenses who are also suspected of being undocumented immigrants based upon their appearance, which amounts to an unofficial, but active policy, of racial profiling on the part of local police departments (3). Add to this the recent discovery of the clandestine Border Patrol detention facility in the city of Riverside, the monthly arrest quotas on the part of Border Patrol , and the urgency of the situation takes on a new dimension.
Needed more then ever is the solidarity and support of all who are against the Criminalization of workers simply because of what part of the earth they happened to be born on, the color of their skin, or language that they speak. If its not possible for you to join us in fighting for immigrant rights, and the rights of all workers, due to your distance from the IE please note that this is a nationwide problem, with raids being conducted on a daily basis throughout the country. In fact this is an international problem, with working class immigrants often facing brutal persecution and severe exploitation by authorities, xenophobic groups, multinationals, and employers around the world (3). In consideration of this we need to take the steps necessary to begin organizing in our communities in solidarity with those around the world who are struggling against the immigration laws and quotas that serve to keep the international working class dehumanized, divided, and marginalized for the benefit of capitalism and the ambitions of its ruling class.
Siempre en lucha!
Worker Solidarity Alliance WSA (personal capacity)
1. Participating organizations included, Warehouse Workers United, LiUNA, the National Day Labor Organizing Network, Pomona Economic Opportunity Center, the Inland Empire Rapid Response Network, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel and other churches, student groups from UC Riverside and the Claremont Colleges, the Mexica Movement, and the Brown Berets. Courtesy of Rockero: http://la.indymedia.org/news/2009/02/224529.php
2. Riverside Police: Border Patrol offered help identifying immigrants
3. ZACF: Workers, Bosses and the 2008 Pogroms
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