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Sit-in at Rep. Dreier's office Protesta en la oficina del congresista Dreier

by Rockero Friday, Jun. 11, 2010 at 8:26 PM

Thursday, June 10, 2010
SAN DIMAS, California - About thirty constituents, immigrant rights activists, students, and community members entered Representative David Dreier's office, requesting a meeting and answers to questions on his stance on immigration reform. When Dreier's staff proved unresponsive to the request, activists declared they would not leave until their demands were met. They held the office for about an hour, withdrawing after negotiating with officials from the Los Angeles County sheriff's office.

Jueves, 10 de junio, 2010

SAN DIMAS, California - Unas treinta personas, entre ellas electores, activistas por los derechos de los inmigrantes, estudiantes, y miembros de la comunidad, entraron a la oficina del congresista David Dreier para pedir una reunión con él y para preguntarle sobre su postura hacia la reforma migratoria. Cuando su personal no rehusó a recibir la petición, los activistas declararon que no iban a partir hasta que se les concedieran sus demandas. Mantuvieron su presencia en el despacho por alrededor de una hora, y se retiraron después de negociar con oficiales del departamento del alguacil de Los Ángeles.

Sit-in at Rep. Dreie...
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Today's action was part of a coordinated effort spearheaded by Reform Immigration for America (RIFA), a national organization made up of existing immigrant-rights groups, to force legislators to choose a side in the immigration debate, which has recently intensified due to Arizona's passage of the enforcement-only law SB 1070. The essential question the campaign asks of representatives is "Are you on the side of reform or racism?" A similar action took place at the office of Representative Jerry Lewis of Redlands last week. Members of the RIFA campaign held a simultaneous action again today at Lewis' office.

At about 10:30, the activists silently entered the second-story office, carrying pro-migrant signs. Two delegates of the crowd led the negotiations; one of whom was a constituent, the other had met with a Dreier aid in Washington D.C. in March of this year. They requested a meeting with Representative Dreier, and were informed that the congressman only accepts meeting requests in writing. They assented, and composed a letter on the spot, but were not deterred from their primary objective. They requested that the staffer phone the congressman so that we could ask their questions in person, but they declined. Escalation began, with the supporters in the room initiating the "whisper chant" "Dreier take a stand!" With that, staffer whispered an order to call the sheriff.

Negotiations continued as the activists made their demands clear: "We'll accept a meeting with Dreier, a phone call from him, or a public statement. We'll remain here until we get one of the three." The chief of staff began asking the activists, who by this time had taken seats on the office floor, where they were from. "He automatically assumed that since we had brown faces, we were not his constituents," one woman commented afterwards. "That was very offensive."

The escalation continued, the chants increasing in volume and intensity.

Staffers attempted to give the activists the roundabout by explaining the details of protocol. They began to look unnerved. "You were here yesterday!" exclaimed one senior staffer, directing his question at one of the negotiators. "Why didn't you set up an appointment then?" "I was here yesterday as an individual, but today, I'm here representing my community," he answered.

Realizing that they were going to be unable to conduct business as normal, the staffers retreated into a back room. As the chants continued, someone from a neighboring office entered Dreier's, and asked to speak with the white-skinned member of the negotiating team. When asked why he wanted to speak to that particular individual, he asked him, "You're the leader, aren't you?" "We are all leaders, sir," came the polite response.

Since the staffers were acting on the assumption that the demonstrators were not Dreier's constituents, a second strategy was designed. Two members of the crowd, a disabled American and a college professor, both of whom live in the district, approached to request an appointment. The senior staffer became very belligerant, sticking his fingers in the disabled man's face. "You stick your fingers in my face again and I'll shove my cane...!" he began, stopping before the end of the sentence.

The staffers seemed desperate by this point. "You're interrupting our work!" they pleaded. "Can I go into your classroom," the senior staffer asked the educator, "and cause a disruption there?" The professor explained that the difference was that Dreier is a public servant working for us.

"ICE and the Border Patrol disrupt our families' lives every day when they raid houses at five in the morning!" declared one of the delegated negotiators as a hush fell among the crowd.

Shortly thereafter, sheriff's deputies arrived en masse. A peaceful exit was negotiated, with deputies filming the demonstrators at the egress. Demonstrators refused to be intimidated, however, and set up a picket line in front of the office building. A summary of the action was presented to the crowd, which now included reporters from the corporate press. An oversized checklist listing the questions the activists sought to have answered was displayed, and as they were read aloud, the crowd answered "Yes" or "No," depending on the impression they got from the response of Dreier's staff and his previous history, given the lack of response from Dreier.

"Dreier, remember! We vote in November!" was the rallying cry, just before the final chant of "Wel'll be back!" was raised. One activist, as student from Cal Poly Pomona, shared corundas, a tamal-like traditional snack of Michoacán to the hungry participants, and a spirit of fellowship was felt as shared as the action was evaluated and plans for the next steps were taken.

"I've been kicked out of much nicer places than this!" joked one activist. "I felt empowered. They were uncomfortable with our claiming that space, and that actually felt good," shared another. "Our disabled friend pointed out that the building has no elevator," said a young man. "What does that say about how accessible Dreier is to his constituents when his office is not even accessible to the disabled?"

As the meeting adjourned, we were encouraged to learn that the activists sitting in at Jerry Lewis' office had been granted a video conference with their target, demonstrating that through persistence and dedication, concrete goals can be met.

La acción de hoy fue parte de un esfuerzo coordinado encabezado por Reform Immigration for American (RIFA), una organización nacional compuesta de grupos pro-migrantes ya existentes, para impulsar a los legisladores a que escojan un lado del debate migratorio, lo cual que se ha agudizado últimamente debido al pasaje de la ley de Arizona SB 1070, que codifica aplicación de leyes migratorias sin ningún amparo a los indocumentados. La pregunta esencial de la campaña es, "¿Estás del lado de la reforma o del racismo?" Una acción similar tomó lugar la semana pasada en la oficina del congresista Jerry Lewis de Redlands. Miembros de la campaña RIFA volvieron realizaron otra acción simultánea hoy en la oficina de Lewis.

A las diez y media, los activistas entraron silenciosamente, llevando pancartas con lemas pro-migrantes. Dos delegados dirigieron las negociaciones; uno de ellos fue elector del distrto de Dreier mientras que el otro se había reunido con un asesor del congresista en Washington, DC en marzo de este año. Pidieron una reunión con Dreier, y se les informó que debían presentar su petición por escrito. Concedieron, y allí mismo compusieron una carta, pero se desviaron de perseguir su objetivo principal. Pidieron que la empleada se comunicara con el congresista por teléfono para poder hacerle las preguntas personalmente, pero se negó. Comenzó la escalación cuando los que estaban de apoyo iniciaron una "consigna a susurros," "Dreier, toma una postura!" Con ésto, se escuchó un orden para llamar al alguacil.

Continuaron las negociaciones mientras que los activistas expresaron sus demandas: "Aceptaremos una reunión con Dreier, una llamada de él, o una declaración pública. Aquí nos quedaremos hasta recibir una de las tres." El jefe de personal empezó a preguntarles a los activistas, ya sentados en la alfombra, uno por uno dónde residían. "Presumió automáticamente que ya que teníamos caras de color, no éramos sus electores," comentó una mujer joven después. "Éso fue muy ofensivo."

Continuó la escalación, y el volumen e intensidad de las consignas se incrementó.

Los empleados intentaron evadir las preguntas de los activistas al explicar el protocolo de hacer citas, etc. Empezaron verse alterados. "¡Aquí estabas ayer!," exclamó un empleado de alto rango, dirigiendo una pregunta a uno de los negociadores. "¿Por qué no hiciste cita entonces?" "Aquí vine ayer como individuo, mas hoy, estoy en representación de mi comunidad," le contestó.

Al darse cuenta que no iban a poder trabajar como siempre, los empleados se retiraron a una sala al fondo del despacho. En lo que continuaban los coros, alguien de una oficina vecina entró a la de Dreier y pidió hablar con el blanco del equipo negociador. Cuando éste le preguntó por qué quiso hablar con él, volvió a preguntar, "Pues eres el dirigente, ¿no?" "Todos somos dirigentes, señor," le contestó el joven.

Debido al hecho de que el personal procedió bajo la presunción de que los manifestantes no eran electores de Dreier, se elaboró otra estrategia. Dos de los congregados, un norteamericano discapacitado y un profesor universaritio, electores de ese distrito ambos, se acercaron para pedir una cita. El encargado se volvió muy agresivo y metió los dedos a la cara del señor discapacitado. "¡Si vulves a meter tus dedos a mi cara, meteré mi bastón...!" empezó a replicar, sin terminar la frase.

En eso el personal parecía desesperarse. "¡Están interrumpiendo nuestro trabajo!" reclamaron. "¿Puedo entrar a tu aula," el encargado le preguntó al profesor, "y hacer disturbio allí?" El profesor le explicó que la diferencia radicaba en que Dreier es un elegido público al servicio de nosotros.

"¡La migra y la Patrulla Fronteriza perturban las vidas de nuestras familias cuando catean casas a las cinco de la mañana!" declaró uno de los negociadores. Las consignas se calmaron durante ese momento.

Poco después, llegaron en masa los diputados del alguacil. Se negoció una salida pacífica, y los agentes filmaron los manifestantes al salirse. Sin embargo, no se dejaron intimidar y armaron un piquete por delante del edificio. Al pueblo, ya incluyendo representantes de la prensa corporativa, se le presentó un resumen de la acción. Se mostró una lista de preguntas de proporciones exageradas. Al leer en voz alta las preguntas, al pueblo le tocó extrapolar cuales habrían sido las respuestas de Dreier, ya que éste no les contestó.

"¡Dreier, recuerda! ¡Votamos en noviembre!" fue la consigna gritada, justo antes de la última consigna de "¡Regresaremos!" Un activista, estudiante en la Universidad Politécnica de Pomona, compartió corundas, un refrigerio típico del estado de Michoacán, con los manifestantes hambrientos. Se sintió un espíritu de comunión y se evaluó la acción y se hicieron planes para los próximos pasos.

"Me han corrido de oficinas mucho más bonitas que ésta!" bromeó uno de los activistas. "Yo me sentí empoderado. Se incomodaron con nuestro reclamo a ese espacio, y eso se sintió bien," compartió otro. "Nuestro compañero discapacitado notó que el edificio no tiene acensor," dijo un joven. "¿Qué implica éso de la acesibilidad de Dreier a sus electores cuando su oficina no es siquiera accesible a los discapacitados?"

Al terminarse la reunión, nos dio ánimo aprender que a los activistas que habían acudido a la oficina de Jerry Lewis se les concedió una videoconferencia con el congresista, una prueba de que a través de la perseverancia y la dedicación, se pueden lograr metas concretas.

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