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Love Thy Neighbor: Immigrant Worker Support Demo

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=–_Egb_7pbY] 

Posted by Kimberly:

February 10th Visit by a national anti-immigrant group to Farmingville, and the peace community’s repsonse

Thursday, at 11:43 am, someone posted info about an anti-immigrant demo on www.631politics.com

Friday, at around 8 am, we saw it and posted it to the Suffolk Progressive Vision web-site and spread the word to pro-immigrant colleagues and press to counter demonstrate.

Saturday, we got together enough people so that there were more pro-immigrant demonstrators than anti-immigrant demonstrators.

There was no professional press. But, one Public Access producer did interviews, and Ian got footage for Youtube. And, there was one other press person, see below.

Our main sign was “Love Thy Neighbor” with mini flags attached to the poles on the end. It made it loud and clear who we were. And, I think the flags made people from both sides honk at us. Other signs said, “Immigrant Rights are Human Rights” in Spanish and English, and “All work dignifies labor.”

At 9 am, there were only 4 of us pro-immigrant demonstrators. A lot of the time there were 6 to 7 of us. But, by the end of the day, the anti-immigrant side had only had 11 people in total, and we had a little more than a dozen shift through.  So, all and all, we won in numbers!

 

Also, we outlasted them. We got kind of determined to stand our ground. So the anti-immigrant people started leaving and we stayed until the last one of them was gone from 7-11 around 1 pm. (It was cold at first! But, it did warm up. Took breaks at local businesses.)

There was a young man who started on the 7-11/anti-immigrant side of the street who had on a camouflage jacket. He came over to our side and started taking photos. I was scared at first. It turned out that he was a photojournalist student from a local college. His mission was to present both sides of the immigration issue in photos.  After speaking with him, we think he leans towards the pro-immigrant side of the situation.

We got some negative feedback. But, also lots of positive honks. A man in a car shouted out “Good job!” I found it wonderful that, since we were across the street from the anti-immigrant people, we took away some of their thunder by confusing the issue as to if the honks were for their hate or our love.

On their web-site, and in the brief interaction with them, this anti-immigrant group claims not to hate. Some were dressed in camouflage, and some were dressed like law enforcement officials in black uniform outfits. One of them had a big attack dog-looking pet that he walked passed us a couple of times. And, their signs said things like “Deport Illegal Aliens.”

There were lots of police around. I think the police are usually there anyway addressing the situation of the workers being picked up. The police did not bother us at all, or give us any instructions. One of our members had gone up to a police car and stated that we did not want to have any conflict, and would be standing on the other side of the street from the anti-immigrant group. 

A woman, anti-immigrant demonstrator came over to our side. We tried to ignore her. Then we asked her to leave, etc. when she started standing to close to us and creating argumentative conversations. A man from our demo decided to give her empathetic, quiet listening. She explained something about the guest worker program, he looked her in the eyes and said nothing. Then, she decided to walk back over to her side. No other real incidents.

The anti-immigrant people tried to cat-call us a bit, mock our signs, etc. And, they videotaped us. But, we just avoided interacting. We had said that our only goal was to send a message of support for immigrants, and to be non-violent and non-confrontational.

The day went okay. And, I think a lot of people who drove by felt happy and relieved that someone was there expressing rejection of the haters and support for the immigrant workers.

There were clusters of day laborers waiting on the side of the road down every path of the intersection. When some groups of day laborers walked passed us, they smiled and said “thank you” to us.

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