<i>"The Name of Our Country is América" - Simon Bolivar</i> The Narco News Bulletin<br><small>Reporting on the War on Drugs and Democracy from Latin America
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Al Giordano

Opening Statement, April 18, 2000
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Mexican Journalist Booted Out of Texas Anti-Immigrant Rally

“Group of... So-Called ‘Protectors of the Constitution’ Kicked Out a Representative of the Mexican Press Who Had Shown up to Cover the Event...”

By Bill Conroy
Special to The Narco News Bulletin

June 30, 2007

Three anti-immigrant groups joined forces to bring their white-privilege road show to the city of San Antonio on Saturday afternoon, June 30. They assembled their troops in the Alamo City to stage a street protest in front of the offices of U.S. Attorney Johnny “House of Death” Sutton.

This anti-immigrant protest was replete with ironies that expose the raw hypocrisy of the forces aligned against the authentic immigration-reform movement in this nation. The fact that so much irony was to be assembled on one street corner in America is what inspired Narco News to check out the scene.

And ranking as the top irony of the day was the fact that this group of assembled so-called “protectors of the Constitution” kicked out a representative of the Mexican press who had shown up to cover the event. That’s right, the Mexican reporter was banned, escorted out of the “rally” area, which was on public property, by San Antonio police at the request of what the Mexican reporter called “the guys in black shirts.”

D.R. 2007
“I was prevented from going to the rally,” says Rodolfo Pérez Escalona, a reporter and photographer for the Mexican newspaper Prensa, which is based in Ocotlan, Jalisco, Mexico. “This has nothing to do with the border; it is a business for them … and it is the poor people who suffer. I was kicked out because they did not want the Mexican press showing them in a bad light.”

Now why would these anti-immigrant Americans be afraid of being portrayed in a bad light, since they claim justice, truth and the law is on their side? Larry Howell, a member of an anti-immigrant group called U.S. Border Watch (not to be confused with the U.S. Border Patrol) was part of the “security detail” (the guys in black shirts) at the rally on Saturday, which took place on a grassy knoll overlooking San Pedro Avenue near the Loop 410 freeway in North Central San Antonio.

Here is why Howell came out this day, braving a temperature hovering near 90 and high humidity:

We need to enforce our own laws and close the border and expel every illegal citizen. They come here and drop anchor babies who are unconstitutional citizens. Our government is promoting lawlessness and the citizens are rising up.

Oh, they’re rising up all right. And some of that was happening right across the street from the anti-immigrant rally, where a group of 20 or so pro-immigrant protesters had assembled to let their thoughts be known.

One of them was Frank San Miguel, a member of the San Antonio chapter of the Brown Berets:

“Our point here is these people are being racists,” he says. “We are the indigenous people here. What country are they going to send us back to?”

Who invited them?

D.R. 2007
The anti-immigrant forces that came together Saturday in rage to a South Texas city that is 65 percent Hispanic, are, at the core, afraid. They fear losing the small amount of white privilege, and the power that comes with it, that is afforded to them by a system that each day strips away more and more of their dignity through policies that produce diminishing job security, flat wages, higher prices and fewer choices. (And among the ironies is the sprinkling of Hispanic folks, always U.S. citizens, who throw their lot in with this white privilege crowd because they too fear, at heart, that a wave of immigrants of similar skin tone will jeopardize the hard-fought-for acceptance they have carved out in white America through the concession of assimilation.)

And someone has to take the fall for all that fear, since these flag-waving, God-fearing citizens of the Land of Liberty don’t have the power to really take on the system that rules them from above. So they turn to that foreign brown family from below the border, whose numbers they fear might one day overwhelm even the little bit of privilege now afforded to them. Sutton, a very white, well-connected Bush-appointed prosecutor, is the symbolic target this day, and getting his head would mean something to this angry crowd (his whiteness aside), but only because, ironically, Sutton has failed to deliver to this mob the heads of the brown immigrants.

D.R. 2007
The circle of irony is completed by the fact that the “heroes” the anti-immigrant protestors hold up to advance their cause are for the most part all Latino — former local police and U.S. Border Patrol agents who have been convicted of crimes against other Latinos (Mexican immigrants). And it is not unreasonable to assume that these former law enforcers also have relatives or friends who live south of the border who could themselves some day become victims of the anti-immigrant rage.

A harsh assessment to be sure, but I’d argue an accurate diagnosis of the pathology as well.

The vanguards of the anti-immigrant movement ultimately managed to pull together a crowd of slightly more than 100 people, by Narco News’ estimates, for the siege of Sutton’s office. Though, being a Saturday, Sutton likely had the day off, which meant the protestors were primarily assuring taxpayers dollars were spent for the cops assembled for crowd control.

A number of the more enthusiastic among the gathered angry rednecks and their lemming wives waived signs calling for Sutton’s resignation. But as if to underscore the real purpose of this anti-immigrant rally, there also was a woman walking among the protesters dragging a Mexican flag and inviting people in the crowd to step on it and grind it into the ground as she walked by them. A short time after witnessing this act of courage, another individual in the crowd suggested that we lob some missiles at Mexico so they get the message.

D.R. 2007
About an hour into the rally (which began John Wayne style, at high noon), another anti-immigrant protester walked across the street to the gathering of immigration supporters and began snapping photographs of them, with a cadre of half a dozen San Antonio police watching over the scene.

Of course, the predictable happened, and a verbal sparring match ensued, resulting in the white anti-immigrant provocateur punching one of the immigration supporters in the mouth. In the end, the anti-immigrant thug was not arrested, though, but simply asked to leave the scene. A San Antonio policeman (and their’s was a thankless job this day) explained to me that they were trying to avoid making any arrests for fear of further riling up the situation.

[Update: The San Antonio Express-News is reporting in a story filed online this evening that the provocateur was in fact charged with assault, according to San Antonio Police spokesman Joe Rios — which conflicts with the statement of the policeman questioned about the incident at the scene.]

Borderline Personalities

The protest was organized, in part, via Web sites sponsored by the anti-immigrant groups and with the help of this story in the Moonie-owned newspaper the Washington Times. The newspaper article claimed that “more than 1,000 people are expected to rally Saturday outside the offices of U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton in San Antonio.”

Well, as the rally kicked off, maybe as a sign that the event itself was being over-hyped and wrapped in the flag by the anti-immigrant minority, there were actually more American flags present than people.

A posting on the Web site of the Texas Minuteman Civil Defense Corp., which was one of the groups that organized the protest, included the following pitch for the so-called “Showdown in San Antonio.”

The San Antonio & Austin Chapters of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, in support of the American Freedom Riders, a nationwide motorcycle club dedicated to stopping illegal immigration, will descend thunderously upon the office of U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton and EMPHATICALLY demand he resign, or that President Bush FIRE him for his unjust prosecutions of former Edwards County Deputy Sheriff Gilmer Hernandez and former U.S. Border Patrol agents Gary Brugman, Ignacio Ramos, and Jose Compean! Demand that the Justice Department and the Bush Administration CEASE their Malicious Prosecution and Intimidation Tactics of Border Patrol Agents and Other Law Enforcement Officers.

D.R. 2007
The other anti-immigrant group involved in organizing the protest was the U.S. Border Watch — again, the guys wearing the black shirts and radio equipment who enlisted the San Antonio police to help kick out the Mexican reporter Rodolfo Pérez Escalona.

The Minuteman organizing materials made clear that only signs “related to the actions of Attorney Sutton” in prosecuting the U.S. law enforcers would be tolerated. “Any signs relating to another topic will be subject to removal,” their Web site states. The protest was held on public property, and according to one San Antonio policeman who spoke to Narco News, the anti-immigrant protestors did not need to have a city permit to stage the rally for that reason — yet apparently they were allowed to determine who could could stay and even what signs were allowed on the public property.

The Minuteman also brought along their “border operations radios” to stay in contact with “leadership” — a group of clandestine white men carrying concealed weapons no doubt — since that is legal in Texas.

U.S. Attorney Sutton has been in the rifle sights of these anti-immigrant groups because of his office’s prosecution of border law-enforcement officials accused of violating the civil rights of Mexican citizens. In particular, the cases of former Border Patrol agents Igancio Ramos and Jose Compean have inflamed the passions of this red-meat crowd — whose crankshafts are gyrated regularly by the torrent of anti-immigrant propaganda being poured out through the right-wing press and nut blogs.

Ramos and Compean are currently serving prison terms after being convicted of shooting a dope smuggler in the rump as he fled back across the border and then covering up evidence of the incident. Sutton’s office handled their prosecution.

The featured speaker at the San Antonio protest, David Brugman, also is a former Border Patrol agent who served two years in prison after being convicted on charges related to assaulting Mexican immigrants who attempted to cross the border without the proper paperwork.

Here’s how the U.S. Court of Appeals that rejected Brugman’s appeal described the incident:

… Brugman approached the group and began asking them why they were running. Brugman then directed his questions specifically to one man, Miguel Jimenez-Saldana, asking him, “Do you like to run?” or “Do you want to run?” When Jimenez-Saldana did not respond, Brugman kicked him, knocking him to the ground. Despite the fact that Jimenez-Saldana did not fight back, resist, or move, Brugman began to punch Jimenez-Saldana in the ribs with his hands. Brugman then approached a second alien, posed the same questions to him, and kicked him over as well.

Brugman was indicted by a grand jury of one count of “depriving another of his constitutional rights while acting under the color of law” and later convicted by a jury and sentenced to 27 months in prison.

So these weekend warriors for justice showed up in front of Sutton’s office, a privately owned office building, on this day, June 30, to protest these and similar tragedies of justice involving sort of law abiding law enforcement officers.

Twisted justice

A case certainly can be made that the sentences handed out to these law enforcers were too harsh and Sutton overly aggressive in seeking the punitive punishments. Given the documented pattern of excessive use of force by certain elements of law enforcement over the years that often has resulted in no charges, there clearly is some justification for outrage over what appears to be a double standard in meting out harsh sentences to the border law enforcers who inspired today’s protest.

But that isn’t the twisted nuance that brought these anti-immigrant crusaders to the curbsides in front of Sutton’s government-leased office on this day.

If that were the case, if they were really concerned about the rule of law (and not obsessed with blind rage toward brown people from south of the border) then the House of Death mass murders should also have been a topic of heated protest this day as well, right? In that case, federal agents and prosecutors, including Sutton himself, have been accused of being complicit in the murders of at least a dozen people in Juarez, Mexico, and the subsequent cover-up of their involvement in that bloodshed.

But the Minuteman’s organizing screed made clear that any protest signs off the topic of the law enforcers convictions would not be tolerated at this protest, as has already been pointed out. And apparently that authoritarian mandate also even extended to the media — if they happened to be with the Mexican press.

So it would appear this gathering of righteous right-wingers was really about immigrant bashing and assuring that law enforcers in the future are encouraged to partake in that bashing, literally, without consequence. That also would explain why they seemingly find no argument with Sutton when it comes to the House of Death murders — because, in that case, he is implicated in facilitating the ultimate form of brown people bashing: murder.

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The Narco News Bulletin: Reporting on the Drug War and Democracy from Latin America