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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Denver civil disobedience marks growing trend for immigration reform


Fourteen people in Denver sacrificed themselves for arrest at the Federal Courthouse Tuesday, July 15th, 2010.  The volunteers were part of a 100 man march from the state capitol to the courthouse steps.  The Federal courthouse at Stout and 19th Avenue is where many immigrants who are victims of raids meet justice for the first time.


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The fourteen to be arrested knelt behind a banner that read “Stop separating families”

Mateos Alvarez of the Service Employees International Union Local 105 (SEIU), the bargaining power which represents our nations janitors and cleaning people, said this was a day to ask for immigration reform.  It is also justice day for our Nation’s janitors.  Many of the cleaning people who take care of homes and offices are undocumented. 


Julie Gonzalez, Colorado Reform Immigration For America (RIFA) coordinator, said when President Obama was candidate Obama, he promised immigration reform in his first year.  Gonzalez said President Obama needs to keep his word.  While SEIU put forth the organizing push for the march, not RIFA, Ms. Gonzalez has been a tireless worker for immigrant’s rights and spoke passionately at the kick off rally at the state capitol.


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One of the brave 14, now in plastic restraints, being led off for processing at the Denver County Jail.

Once the protesters reached the federal courthouse, those who volunteered to be arrested took their place blocking Stout Street, which passes by the front of the courthouse.  A police blockade was set up to keep traffic at bay.  While one officer video taped the protesters, another officer addressed each one in turn.  By then, the group had refused to move from the street for an extended period of time.  The officer gave each person a chance to move and each refused. 


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Several of the 12 to be arrested hold the “Justice for Janitors” sign, including a 70 year old priest who indicated his conscience required him to take this action.

Meanwhile, the balance of the more than 100 protesters set up a picket line in support of the brave 14.  Many of them had video cameras and taped the police while the police video-taped them.  Even though the protesters refused to be intimidated by the police video taping, they were at all times peaceful.  The immigration reform movement is based upon principles of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King who used peaceful, civil disobedience, to shed light upon their cause.


“The Denver Police are not our enemies” Gonzales noted.  The problem is with an out-of-control immigration system.  The problem is with immigration raids which leave families broken, fathers or mothers in one place and children in another.


Civil disobedience is being used in other places in the United States to bring the message of the urgency for immigration reform.  Four undocumented students were arrested when they refused to leave Senator John McCain’s office.  Each student has placed himself in jeopardy of deportation, an immense personal sacrifice, in order to bring the message of needed immigration reform to the citizens of the United States of America.  Several people blocked a van full of undocumented workers being returned to Mexico until the protesters were arrested in Illinois. 


You can help the immigration reform movement by calling your senator and demanding he support Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR).  Every phone call counts!  Really!  So don’t be shy!


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