I promised a report two days ago, but I’ve been having monumental issues trying to upload the pictures to my computer…so here’s my report, with the pictures to follow. It all started last Thursday with Shakira showing up in Phoenix to protest SB 1070, the immigration bill that has the whole hemisphere buzzing.
More than a year ago, I plugged my iPod into the dock on my desk at work and turned on some music. I happened to be in the mood to listen to Shakira, and I had many of her songs – all of them in Spanish – on my iPod. I tend to like her better in Spanish because she sounds more confident in her native language. One of my coworkers, who is from Mexico, was shocked that I was listening to it; she asked everyone else before figuring out that it was me. This person saw me in a bit of a different light after that day.
Fast-forward to last Thursday. I’m furiously taking notes in an EMT refresher and recertification course (something all EMT’s have to do every two years) and trying at the same time to think of what kind of questions I’d like to ask some of the protesters, because I’m planning to go get some information on the protests since I’m at a training facility that’s barely 15 minutes from the state capitol. I remember being nervous about my tests (I’m a total perfectionist) and about how to word questions so as not to give away which side I’m on. The trouble is that if you offend the people you’re trying to get information from, they won’t let you stick around long. They certainly won’t answer your questions.
One man named Jose came with a group of 200 others from Las Vegas to protest the bill; they carried a professionally-printed banner of a photoshop of Jan Brewer in Adolf Hitler’s uniform. When I asked him why they thought supporters of the bill were Nazis, he replied, “oh, we don’t think they’re really Nazis. They just call us criminals and we want them to know how it feels to be labeled as something you’re not.” 46-year-old Angela, who didn’t understand a word of English and needed her 12-year-old daughter to translate, said that she heard about the bill and “it made me sad.” Ron, who didn’t wish to give his last name, carried a sign that said “brown is beautiful” and gave me an earful. He was nice enough to me. When asked if he’d read the bill, he said he’d read the “core components” (I guess the whole 25 page document was too long for him) and gave me points that weren’t even in the bill – in particular, he talked about being arrested for “associating with illegals.” That isn’t in the bill; knowingly hiring illegal day laborers or transporting illegal aliens, however, is. Something else he said that sticks with me was, “people are gonna get hurt, you know? If this doesn’t stop, people are gonna start getting hurt! I hate to say it, but it’s gonna happen!”
There were exactly two counter-protesters on hand, neither of whom had extreme messages but who were both being openly reviled by the rest of the crowd. Then, Shakira showed up, flanked by Phoenix mayor Phil Gordon and state representative Kyrsten Sinema (both are Democrats). She first addressed the crowd in Spanish, then in English. She said that the bill went against human dignity and civil rights, then went on to mock the law AND Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio (whom I also don’t like, albeit for much different reasons). She said, “right now, I could go to jail because I didn’t bring my driver’s license. Mister Arpaio, are you gonna come and arrest me because I didn’t bring my documents?” The crowd cheered wildly and broke into chants of, “si, se puede!” There was a huge police presence at the capitol. When I left right around sunset that evening, I tried to talk to Sinema – who does know who I am and heartily disagrees with my politics – and she all but ran in the opposite direction. The event itself was pretty tame in comparison to others I’ve witnessed in the past couple of weeks.
Tonight, however, Al Sharpton drew a crowd of about 2,000, far more than Shakira. His visit coincided with both the Phoenix Suns’ use of an alternate jersey that read “Los Suns” and Drinko de Mayo (I’m sorry, Mexico doesn’t celebrate it, I don’t see any reason we do other than to drink). He gave a speech at a church less than a mile from the state capitol then led the mass to the capitol, where several speeches were given and are by all accounts still going on now as I type. I hurt my back yesterday while trying to lift heavy objects (what’s saddest of all is that I knew I was doing it the wrong way but I was in a rush), so I was in no condition to do two miles’ worth of walking to get a few pictures and maybe a few quotes. As I sat watching the footage, though, I wished more than anything that I could have gone. I wish I could have been there to give Sharpton a piece of my mind even though he’d never have the nerve to ever have a real debate with someone who disagrees with him. I’m sure the instant I got near enough to ask a difficult question I’d have been removed by force.
The same theme runs commonly throughout all of these protests: you can easily tell that none of them have read the bill.
Comments about racial profiling, arrests for simply associating with illegals, calling the bill immoral and misguided, accusations of racism, hate and Nazism…all of it is the product of a misinformed, extremely emotional group of people. Rather than asking what’s in the bill they’re making assumptions based on hearsay and every single assumption they’re spouting is 100% wrong. In fact, the bill is made of word-for-word verbiage from both federal immigration law AND the civil rights act. I’ll get into the specifics later, but the bill both provides the ability to local officers to enforce laws that the feds have refused to enforce and provides protection from racial profiling.
As if what’s gone on isn’t bad enough, Ricky Martin has weighed in, several California cities have as well, and Sharpton has called on Major League Baseball to cancel the planned All-Star Game in 2011 at Chase Field. I will tell you here and now, the stars and race-baiting politicians who are getting involved know absolutely nothing about the actual bill; they’re saying things that are not true in order to gain a little more publicity.
It’s beginning to make us mad. When Arizona was boycotted in the early 1990’s over their refusal to recognize Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday as a holiday, there was some – SOME – justification in it. Here there is none, because none of those who are protesting the legislation understand what’s in it. To those of you who have seen fit to stick your proverbial nose in our politics, remember one thing: the truth always comes out. We’re not racists. We’re certainly not Nazis. The problem is simple: we don’t know who is coming across the border, but we know that a fair number of them are the bad guys that our immigration process is designed to weed out. In the past two years the Valley of the Sun has lost two police officers to illegal aliens and a multitude of victims’ lives have been upended by illegals through a plethora of crimes, including burglary, robbery, aggravated assault, rape and murder. The drug trade thrives here because Arizona is so close to the border.
Something had to be done. And I have to say this, too…it’s highly self-aggrandizing to hold yourselves, the Latino community, up as the sole group who will be impacted by this bill. If anybody is a racist group here, I’d say it’s YOU.