Reporter’s Notebook from July 4th in Murrieta, California:

Outrage and Anger Confronts Patriotic Thugs and Bigots at Immigrant Detention Center

July 6, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper |


People came to the immigration detention center in Murrieta from all over Southern California and beyond on the 4th of July to insist that the children with and without parents flooding across the border in Texas be treated humanely, with care and concern, and not as animals or criminals. And they came to challenge and confront the reactionaries whose ugly anti-immigrant xenophobia and pro-USA chauvinism has been given center stage in the national—and international—news all week.

On July 4th, supporters of immigrants rights faced off with reactionary thugs in Murrieta, CA, where days earlier, a bus with parents and children from Central America had been blocked by a mob chanting "USA" and waving American flags.  Photo: AP

In the midmorning these patriotic yahoos with their huge American flags found themselves outnumbered, and were forced to move to the sidelines by a loud, raucous, defiant protest that gave voice to the people who came together from a wide variety of perspectives who opposed them. There were dozens of young people from pro-immigrant organizations from Long Beach, the Inland Empire (Riverside, San Bernardino, and the High Desert), and Los Angeles, one group carrying a banner saying “Not 1 More Deportation.” The Inland Empire group said they were talking to ICE and Homeland Security and were arranging transitional housing for the families and children after they are processed, while still facing deportation.

There was a group of 10 people from Los Angeles who carried American flags that were torn into shreds. They told Revolution:

We’re trying to bring out that humanity is more important than any sort of borders that are put on this earth, and that people are free to move, especially when the country that is perpetuating most of the economic inequality through NAFTA, through... the funding of drug cartels in those countries is actually criminalizing people for trying to flee those areas.

When asked about their flags they said:

There’s an article that came out in the Onion that said the U.S. flag is responsible for 143 million deaths, so it’s been recalled. I agree. When you hold up a flag that represents chauvinism for the sake of protecting capitalism, imperialism, and oppression, it should be burned. It’s just like the swastika, it should be burned. When you put children into military bases, detention centers, your flag deserves to be burned. And there shouldn’t be flags; we should just be able to identify ourselves as human beings. One of the most important things is that these children get care... they are refugees. (At one point an American flag was burned.)

A dozen or more Aztec dancers came from Los Angeles; they did native Indian dances in their beautiful costumes in a circle to the beat of loud drums for hours. Activists and organizers came from the Stop Mass Incarceration Network with signs and large banners, one calling for the October Month of Resistance to Mass Incarceration, Police Terror, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation. And there was a sizeable group representing the movement for revolution, some making the trip from the San Francisco Bay Area, wearing their Revolution—Nothing Less! and BA (Bob Avakian) image T-shirts, with bullhorns and banners, and lots of Revolution newspapers.

At the same time there were many, many others who came just on their own, often in ones and twos—not responding to an official call to be there—but feeling compelled by their humanity to take action and not let these racists take center stage. A high school student, dressed in white, told Revolution she had set up an event page on Facebook calling on friends to come dressed in white, and to march silently from the Wal-Mart a half mile away to the detention center. Though she was only familiar with a couple of her new “virtual” friends, 30 people showed up for the July 4th march!

A number of people from Murrieta came to oppose the racists. Two sisters from Murrieta—one in high school, the other in college with a young daughter—came together, carrying two handmade signs that each said: “Our Land Is Your Land. Bienvenidos!” over a rippling American flag. They had first come to the detention center on Tuesday after hearing that anti-immigrant forces were out there.

We wanted to come down here and support the immigrants and like show them that we DO care that they’re here and we want to support them now that they are here. We’re just trying to be a different voice. Today there’s lots of supporters, but when we came here on Tuesday we were one of the very few that were supporting them. We were disgusted with all of the hate, and we wanted them to know that Murrieta is not all so hateful and that we do support them. They’re humans also, and they deserve respect and we value them just as equals.

On Tuesday it was brutal. Even we were called racist things; people were telling us to go back to Mexico. [Their ancestors were Pima Indians.] I had my child with me and people were telling me that they are paying for my child; that I’m using up all these resources, which is not true. But they were being just as hateful as they could to anyone who was here; it was disturbing.

There were people who felt motivated for patriotic reasons to oppose these anti-immigrant reactionaries. And a staunch Obama supporter carrying a large flag with the map of the earth came from San Diego to support the immigrants. The many handmade signs expressed this diversity of sentiments:

  • Hate is not a disease worth spreading;
  • Morality over politics;
  • While you’re sitting in your Church this Sunday, ask yourself: What would Jesus do?;
  • Shame on the people who turn their backs on the children in need;
  • Somebody call the tea party-KKK busters.

The reactionaries repeatedly tried to push up against the pro-immigrant protesters, causing repeated clashes. The revolutionaries led the demonstration in a chant that shut them up for a minute: “English Only, Whites Only: What’s the Fucking Difference?” They led people to chant: “We say no more; Let our children go!”; and “Stop Thinking like Americans; Start Thinking about Humanity!” And “Somos todos ilegales.” They did call-and-response “mic checks” that the Occupy movement made popular. One mic check covered the demands that have appeared in Revolution newspaper for the last two weeks:

All the youths and children who make it to the U.S. must be treated humanely and compassionately; whenever possible, they must be reunited with family members as soon as possible. They must be given all necessary medical treatment, and put in a caring, loving environment. They must be provided with education, and they must never be deported.

And they did mic checks of BAsics quotes; “No more generations of our youth...” (1:13); “I’m a self-made man...” (1:16); and “Why do people come here...” (BAsics 1:14).

While this intense standoff went on most of the day, it seemed that few people left for that reason.

The gang of anti-immigrant bigots grew in numbers. At one point, there were something like 150 people on each side in the confrontation. And as this happened, the bigots got more belligerent. They chanted “USA, USA, USA” with a vengeance. And when they got in people’s faces they were disgusting. Afterwards, some of the Latina and Latino youth, and youth generally, said they had never encountered such blatant, ugly racism in their lives.

It was crazy, all these racists. You had people almost punching other people in the face. They came up telling us to go back to our country, and physically attacking us. They told us we are the ones who bring drugs to America; we bring violence to America. They called us “anchor babies.” “Your parents came over here, popped you out, and now we’re paying for you.” “You’re taking our jobs.”

More than one person compared this lynch mob to the racist white mobs in Mississippi during the battles for desegregation. But they weren’t all white. There were a few Latinos and Black people among them. Some of them tried to claim they supported legal immigration. And that “this is a nation of laws.” “We need to take care of the people in our country who need help first. Let’s take care of our own country first. Then help other countries.” But even among this mob, a few grew uncomfortable with the blatant racism, and were challenged to think about the crimes committed by the U.S. in Central America that have created the conditions that are forcing people to leave these countries.

The article, “Leave Those Children Alone! Welcome, Support Families Fleeing ‘Made in USA’ Poverty and Violence in Central America!” is right in saying:

The mob in Murrieta blocking buses and their kind are no different than White Citizens’ Councils and KKKers and lynch mobs in Mississippi who terrorized Black people and their supporters fighting for basic rights. And they have the backing (and are being instigated by) powerful forces in the ruling class.”

The whole experience left the people who stood up to the anti-immigrant hatred very unsettled. Where is it coming from? Why is it so virulent? Why weren’t more people out here standing against these racists? And people were drawn to more deeply think about why all of this is taking place—why these children and families are coming here; and why are they being treated like animals?

At least half of the demonstrators supporting the immigrants left with copies of Revolution. There, and at, they will find answers to those questions, and ways to act that will deal with the heart of the problem.

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