April 25, 2010

On Friday, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed a blatant profiling bill into law, securing Arizona’s title as the first official police state in the nation. If enacted, a whopping 30% of Arizonans – or nearly two million Latinos—would be walking around with a target on their backs.

Under the law, police must stop anyone who they have “reasonable suspicion” to believe may be an “illegal immigrant.” President Obama slammed the new law as a severely “misguided” way to deal with immigration. Republican lawmakers, on the other hand, are scrambling to excuse the fact that the bill mandates racial profiling and could waste hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars. According to Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-CA), former lobbyist for the anti-immigrant group behind the bill, FAIR, police can use plenty of other cues—like people’s hair, or shoes—to determine immigration status.

Watch the new mashup by my organization, America’s Voice:

The irony here is that what was supposed to be a bill that mobilized the nativist elements of the GOP base has instead become a rallying cry for Latino and immigrant communities that have hosted intense, round-the-clock vigils and protests for the last six days in Arizona.

The Arizona Republic reported yesterday:

A line of activists and protesters filed in front of the state Capitol on Friday morning to rally against the immigration bill, joining those that had stayed the night. [...]

Students had left schools Thursday and protested at the Capitol.

Student protesters have been out front, protesting the Governor all the way to her hotel Thursday night to demand she veto the bill, while posting pictures on twitter with the hashtags #SB1070 and #altoarizona (“alto” means stop in Spanish and AltoArizona.com is a hub of activity around the bill).

On Friday, the mainstream media finally began to cover this grassroots display of outrage and power – CNN’s Rick Sanchez reported that protests of the bill were sending twitter over capacity and posted pictures from the thousands of protesters waiting outside to hear the Governor’s decision. As the final decision came down, pictures streaming across twitter showed the bill’s opponents gathered peacefully on their knees, in a moment of silence for human dignity that was echoed across Spanish radio, facebook, and twitter. Not your average tea party.

Student volunteers who had walked out of class in protest formed a human chain around counter-protesters, to make sure that the events stayed peaceful. Watch it (H/T RI4A):

Meanwhile, anti-immigrant extremism and bigotry was fully on display. According to the Associated Press, Rep. Raúl Grijalva, who has been an outspoken critic of the bill and even called for an economic boycott of Arizona, had to close his district offices because of “multiple threats.”

AZ Star reports:

Grijalva staffer Ruben Reyes said the office has been flooded with calls all week about Senate Bill 1070. About 25 percent are "very racist" in nature, Reyes said, characterizing some as "telling that tortilla-eating wetback to go back to Mexico."

Today, Rep. Grijalva and Rep. Luis Gutierrez are holding rallies in Phoenix and Tucson with thousands. On Thursday night, 30,000 activists attended a conference call with Rep. Gutierrez organized by Reform Immigration FOR America. From street action and artwork to organized rallies and events, these protests aren’t going to stop, even in the face of extremism. Earlier this week, the Governor’s office reported that opponents of the bill had flooded her office with more calls and faxes than supporters by a margin of about 6 – 1. Groups collecting signatures banded together to deliver over 50,000 petitions to the Governor’s office in Phoenix.

All of this momentum is gearing up to go viral next weekend, on May 1st, when there will again be a show of strength and unity around the country at rallies in over 50 locations. Organizers will be pressing for real immigration reform and an end to family separation, but I'm guessing Arizona will take center stage.

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