Eyewitness Arizona: Report from the Frontlines

The following article concerning Arizona’s SB 1070 by James Jordan is from Fight Back! News, and was published today with the following editor’s note: “Editors note: SB 1070 was signed into law, Friday April 23. Protests are under way in Arizona.”

Tucson, AZ – “They have every right to be here. This is about civil rights. And the youth are leading the way.” Those were the words of Pima County Board of Supervisors Chair Richard Elias as we talked across the street from where over 100 students had gathered to protest Arizona’s SB1070 – the harshest, most anti-immigrant legislation in the country.

The bill would turn Arizona into an apartheid state, requiring people to carry proof of citizenship on their person at all times – reminiscent of the hated passbook laws in segregated South Africa. While the law doesn’t explicitly state that requirement, it gives local and state police the authority to detain and investigate anyone they suspect of being an undocumented immigrant. In other words, any Latino-looking person who is speaking Spanish can be arrested if they are not carrying identification on their person. The bill includes a number of other repressive components, including provisions to sue governmental agencies for not enforcing immigration laws aggressively enough, requiring citizenship checks for all government services, making it illegal to solicit day labor or to hire day laborers and outlawing churches and government entities from offering sanctuary or instructing local police to not enforce immigration laws.

What perhaps was not foreseen by the architects and proponents of this bill is that it would cause a groundswell of opposition that is radicalizing those who are taking to the streets in struggle. People are mad and they are also energized.

On April 20, some 100 students from four Tucson schools walked out in protest of SB1070. Before the walk-out occurred, police vehicles circled the school, with at least a couple of officers stationed on bikes when the walkout was beginning. According to one Tucson High student, the school administration tried to prevent students from leaving, with all the gates, entrances and exits locked. However, they had to open a gate to let students and cars in at one point, at which time the student explained, “We all went through. They had to let us – there were too many of us. I was jumping over people to get by!” Once off school grounds, police did not interfere with the students’ march.

Later at a rally at the State Building in Tucson, the spirit was palpable. From two blocks away you could hear the students shouting: “Whose land? Our land! Whose state? Our state! Whose desert? Our desert! Whose family? Our family!” There may have been 100 students, but they sounded like many more!

On April 22, there were many more actions, with more than 1000 students walking out of five Phoenix high schools. One of the most amazing things about these walkouts has been that they have not been organized or called by any organizations or regular ‘movement’ channels. Instead, they were completely student run, the word spread via text messaging, facebook and other forms of social networking.

That’s how it has been, from Nogales on the border to Tucson to Phoenix and beyond – people are taking to the streets and getting ready for what everyone knows is going to be a protracted struggle.

The spark to the fire was set April 15, just two days after the House passed SB1070, when 800 Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents, with the cooperation of local, state and, across the border, Mexican authorities, undertook the largest raid in ICE’s seven year history. Communities in several Arizona cities were subject to a military style invasion, complete with helicopters and officers armed with heavy weaponry. People were pulled off shuttle services and city bus lines and investigated for the simple suspicious act of looking Latino. One person, a Mexican immigrant and activist, was detained and questioned while handing out “Know Your Rights” fliers.

On April, 19, a group of nine college students from Phoenix and Tucson were arrested and detained overnight, after chaining themselves together at the State Capitol to protest the legislation. Since then, there have been daily protests going on at the capitol and in other cities. What is clear is that the movement is growing and ready for the fight.

One response to “Eyewitness Arizona: Report from the Frontlines

  1. Arizona can pass race base laws, pass Birthers laws and the state can continue to boycott Martin Luther King Day, well the rest of the Country can boycott the state of Arizona and spank them where it hurts them the most their pocket book. Their phony patriotism is sickening, they are just racists going by another name. We all know you are just itching to put a sheet on their head? Let’s face it the Republicans had eight years to deal with health care, immigration, climate change and financial oversight and governance and they failed. It appears that the Republican Party is only good at starting wars (two in eight years, with fat War profiteering contracts to friends of Cheney/Bush) but not at winning wars as seen by the continuing line of body bags that keep coming home. The Republicans party will continue turned inward to their old fashion obstructionist party (and their Confederacy appreciation roots) because they continue to allow a small portions (but very loud portion) of their party of “birthers, baggers and blowhards” to rule their party. I will admit that this fringe is very good at playing “Follow the Leader” by listening to their dullard leaders, Beck, Hedgecock, Hannity, O’Reilly, Rush, Savage, Sarah Bailin, Orly Taitz, Victoria Jackson, Michele Bachmann and the rest of the Blowhards and acting as ill programmed robots (they have already acted against doctors that perform abortions). The Birthers and the Tea party crowd think they can scare, intimidate and force others to go along with them by comments like “This time we came unarmed”, let me tell you something not all ex-military join the fringe militia crazies who don’t pay taxes and run around with face paint in the parks playing commando, the majority are mature and understand that the world is more complicated and grey than the black and white that these simpleton make it out to be and that my friend is the point. The world is complicated and people like Hamilton, Lincoln, and Roosevelt believed that we should use government a little to increase social mobility, now it’s about dancing around the claim of government is the problem. The sainted Reagan passed the biggest tax increase in American history and as a result federal employment increased, but facts are lost when mired in mysticism and superstition. For a party that gave us Abraham Lincoln, it is tragic that the ranks are filled with too many empty suits and the crazy Birthers who have not learned that the way our courts work is that you get a competent lawyer, verifiable facts and present them to a judge, if the facts are real and not half baked internet lies, then, and only then, do you proceed to trial. The Birthers seem to be having a problem with their so called “facts”. Let’s face it no one will take the Birthers seriously until they win a case, but until then, you will continue to appear dumb, crazy or racist, or maybe all three. I heard that Orly Taitz now wants to investigate the “Republican 2009 Summer of Love” list: Assemblyman, Michael D. Duvall (CA), Senator John Ensign (NV), Senator Paul Stanley (TN), Governor Mark Stanford (SC), Board of Ed Chair, and Kristin Maguire AKA Bridget Keeney (SC), she wants to re-establish a family values party, that’s like saying that the Catholic Church cares about the welling being of children in their care, too late for that.

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