San Diego, CA- Border marchers, Minuteklan swap verbal jabs
By Michael Stetz
UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER
June 4, 2006
The plan to use National Guard troops to bolster border security was protested yesterday in San Ysidro.
Calling the move “militaristic,” organizers staged a rally and a march, which went from the community's Larsen Field Park to the U.S.-Mexico border.
The rally also drew a counterprotest by members of the Minuteman Project, the controversial citizen border patrol, who clustered along Camino de la Plaza, an avenue bordering the park.
The two groups took verbal jabs at each other throughout the afternoon.
Police said it was largely a civil protest, with one arrest. A man was taken to jail after what police said was an assault on an officer.
At one point, when the march began and protesters neared the Minutemen, police had to stand between the two factions.
“Racists, go home!” the protesters chanted.
“Illegal aliens, go home!” the Minutemen responded.
San Diego police, which beefed up staffing for this rally, estimated the protesters numbered 200.
About two dozen Minutemen were present.
Elva Salinas, a protest organizer, did not give an estimate of the crowd size. She said to ask the police.
The crowd, while not as substantial as at past rallies, was vocal. Tuesday is election day and several events regarding that may have siphoned supporters, said Salinas, an English professor at San Diego City College
“You're always disappointed when you don't get a million people for a protest. But we had quality people,” she said.
The rally was in answer to President Bush's call for the National Guard to assist the U.S. Border Patrol.
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger – who initially expressed concerns about the plan, particularly its funding – agreed last week to use the troops. About 1,000 are expected to be on the border by mid-summer.
The concept rattles protesters. “You call the National Guard for a state of emergency, not this,” said Ajamu Edmonson, a community activist from San Diego. “It's a last resort.”
Protesters also called for amnesty for those who are here illegally.
The Minutemen said the protesters are out of touch with mainstream America and that border security, as it stands now, is a farce.
“They want open borders,” said Jeff Schwilk, the founder of San Diego Minutemen, who was taking part in the counterprotest. “They want it open to drug dealers, terrorists and criminals. That's how I read it.”
The protest had its bizarre moments. A man dressed in a Ku Klux Klan outfit showed up on the Minutemen side, drawing jeers from the protesters.
He was pulled away by police. The Minutemen people said he was not part of their effort.
The police presence was considerable. More than 50 officers were present, including 15 on motorcycles and six on horseback.
“We had a few little conflicts,” said Lt. Tony McElroy, who was in charge. “But it could have been worse.”