Reflections on the events of July 29-31 from Rev. Paul Lanston-Daley, Glendale, AZ
We know, and I think can safely say we all agree, the immigration system is broken, badly broken.
How to fix it is the question. Getting the facts helps. Being undocumented is NOT A CRIME, it is the equivalent of a speeding ticket. So, not only are human being not illegal, but people crossing the border without documents are not illegal either.
There was tremendous power in our presence here. I attended the Puente meeting last night and a number of people said they appreciated us being there. I suspect that our Anglo presence did empower some people. These are folks that are not used to being supported by Anglos, for us to be there, to be willing to get arrested, to stand with them — is to help them realize they are not alone, that they have allies, that they can stand up for themselves and know that we will stand with them — not for them — but with them. We all know now that Sheriff Joe will be held accountable for his actions.
For years people have tried all of the softer suggestions — education, support in the neighborhoods, legal support, etc. etc…. but Sheriff Joe is so powerful here that the fear and intimidation is beyond anything one can imagine. At the meeting last night, I saw a hundred people cheer for Salvador Reza (arrested once for protesting and again for no reason other than he’s not afraid of Sheriff Joe. Sal was present across the street at an action — simply watching — really I am not exaggerating). I saw the members of Puente speak to each other — I heard them say they cannot be afraid any longer, too much is at stake. The dialogue was not militant, only confident and firm in their resolve.
For those who think that Civil Disobedience only makes people angry…that’s sort-of the point…to inconvenience the Sheriff and the Police, to bog down the system. We “inconvenienced” a three block radius in downtown Phoenix…(which by the way is ALWAYS under construction and always a pain to get around). Few “civilians” were “disrupted” by our actions, more were drawn to watch and see what was happening.
I personally believe that we need all forms of protest: (1) Non-Violent Civil Disobedience and Activism (2) political, and legislative action (3) support to local communities, and (4) dialogue and discussion in the civil square. This is how we change lives and hearts…But Activism is necessary to give power to those people (Anglo and Latino alike) who DO NOT support this law who hear EVERYDAY on the news that “a majority of Arizonans support this law”.
I am proud of those who were willing and able to put their bodies on the line for the belief that people should be treated with respect and dignity regardless of their skin color. I am proud of those who provided support to those willing and able to get arrested. I am proud of those who showed up to witness this action, because without witness, action is meaningless. I am proud of the staff who worked tirelessly to coordinate the effort and keep us all informed of what was happening where and when. The people who were able to come have been changed by being here, regardless of the role they played…it is not possible to be here with an open heart and remain unchanged.
One of the most powerful stories for me was when I heard that Mar Carderes of San Diego saw Sheriff Joe through the window of the jail cell, she made a heart with her hands and mouthed the words, I love you Sheriff Joe…He was so caught off guard, he looked dumbfounded, he pointed to himself said “who me”, she said yes, and he walked away shaking his head…
This is a powerful moment and could only happen because she sat in his jail cell, a participant of non-violent, civil disobedience. And it may not make a difference, but then again, Mar’s face and words may haunt him…I can only hope that it will help him open his heart.
We will continue to protest — in ways large and small. Not just for immigrant rights, but for all peoples’ rights. We stand on the side of love for Human Rights.
We may call on you again and for those who can come, I thank you ahead of time…It’s really important to know that we are not alone.
Rev. Paul Langston-Daley
West Valley Unitarian Universalist Church