Protesters From Across California Converge at State Capitol to Call for a Sanctuary State and Oppose Muslim Registry

“A fascist was elected president, and we have to fight”

March 16, 2017 | Revolution Newspaper |


From a reader:

March 15, Sacramento, California: A gathering of 1,000-1,500 people mobilized by Faith In Action came together at the state capitol to support the proposed laws SB 54 (the California Values Act) and SB 31. SB 54 would declare California a Sanctuary State and prohibit any state or local California law enforcement body from cooperating with ICE (Immigration and Custom Enforcement). SB 31 would prohibit any kind of registry or data-based collection for the use of registering any section of the population, in other words, no Muslim registry in California.

People came from many places around California: Orange County, Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Fresno, Modesto, Stockton and SF Bay area cities. They came from different religious groups—Muslim, Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Unitarian and various organizations, and there were many immigrants present. Upon arriving, people met at a church several blocks from the capitol building, where they filled to capacity the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament. A number of ministers and others spoke there, including a Muslim activist from UCLA. Of the ministers that spoke, a number were African-American. One of the main leaders of the day, Rev. Ben McBride from Oakland, told a story at the beginning of his talk of someone who questioned his activism in defense of immigrants. According to McBride, someone from his community said to him, “What are you doing around that [immigrant rights] issue? That has nothing to do with you.” And McBride answered, “It has everything to do with me and us.” He went on to talk about social justice as a broad, embracing vision and how the struggle for justice for Black people was inseparable from the struggle for immigrant rights, and among other oppressed people.

This was the main theme of the day, spoken to by a number of people from different angles, and was encapsulated in one of the main slogans of the day: “One people, one fight,” “Un pueblo, una lucha.” It was interesting to see these African-American ministers, rabbis, Muslim activists, and priests all “preaching” in a major Catholic church on the same theme.

Later in the afternoon in front of Governor Jerry Brown’s office, a very raucous scene unfolded with chants such as “no justice, no peace” and “you can’t stop the revolution,” and speeches that threatened that people would return to “shut it down” if Brown backed away from SB 54. At one point Rev. McBride said, “A fascist was elected president, and we have to fight.” After a spokesperson from Brown’s office emerged to hear the demand that the governor support SB 54 “with no carve-outs” (no amendments to weaken it) and that he agree to talk to a delegation around this issue, the crowd marched out of the capitol building chanting, “You can’t stop the revolution.” As we emerged from the building a line of Black ministers was high-fiving people coming out. I saw a group of rabbis and Black ministers doing high-fives while everyone was loudly chanting, “You can’t stop the revolution!”

On the bus coming up to Sacramento, I sat across from a young woman graduate from Berkeley Theological Seminary who was working at St. Agnes, one of the sanctuary churches in San Francisco. St. Agnes became a sanctuary church shortly after Trump’s inauguration and this young woman was working with a social justice group in the church that helped push that through. The priest at St. Agnes was very much in support of the declaration to become a sanctuary, as was a large majority of the congregation.

It was at St. Agnes that the first rapid response training took place to form groups to defend immigrants, on the streets, from ICE raids. At that first training at the church where organizers were hoping for 40 people, 360 showed up. The young woman reflected on the irony that if Hillary Clinton had been elected, deportation raids would have gone on as usual, as they did under eight years of Obama, and “no one would have done a thing.” She went on to say that she, and everyone else in the church, did nothing all the years under Obama, and now people have woken up, and we should never allow that kind of complacency again. She also said that she is often frustrated in the church because of so many reactionary influences that, among other things, keep women from having a leadership role. But she is hopeful that the grip of the old guard is being loosened and will one day be overthrown. She is staying in the church with that expectation.


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