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Friday, June 4, 2010

Police re-open street, arrest 8 protesters -The Orange County Register

Police re-open street, arrest 8 protesters -The Orange County Register
2010-06-03 10:58:48

SANTA ANA – Eight protesters remained in jail Thursday night after being arrested when they chained themselves together and blocked Santa Ana Boulevard to decry immigration enforcement practices and Arizona's controversial immigration law.

The protesters declined to give police their names, causing authorities problems when they tried to book them into Santa Ana Jail.

Using ropes, duct tape, bolts, and PVC pipes, they had linked themselves together into a circular chain in the westbound lanes of busy Santa Ana Boulevard. Police and firefighters had to use medical scissors and wrenches to free the protesters, who lay on the baking asphalt, looking into the sun.

A banner lay on the street in the center of the circle, reading: "Arizona to Costa Mesa, racism ends here." Stickers on the pipes said, "Brown and proud."

Some of the protesters either couldn't stand or refused to stand once they were freed. All refused to give police their names, and many even refused to speak to Fire Department paramedics who gave them a once-over before they were loaded into a waiting police holding van.

They stayed silent in solidarity with those who are in the country illegally, other members of their group said. They also carried no identifying documents, also as part of a solidarity movement.

Officers arrested them on suspicion of unlawful assembly and refusal to disperse, Santa Ana Police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna said.

He added that the eight would be cited and released if they could be identified by officers. If not, they would remain in jail.

Seven of the eight refused to give officers their names to help with identifying them, and refused to allow officers to fingerprint them, Bertagna said.

A much larger group of about 60 peaceful but loud protesters helped block the street in front of the federal building for several hours. They chose the spot because it was in front of the chain-link gate Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents use as the intake for those suspected of being in the country illegally.

During the protest, police vehicles and fire trucks blocked off Santa Ana Boulevard between Parton and Flower streets. Police directed traffic around the closure.

Authorities didn't know about the protest until an officer happened upon it as he drove down the boulevard.

"We were given no notice" of the gathering, Bertagna said, noting the protest affected traffic downtown and nearby businesses. "This is a major thoroughfare in the city of Santa Ana."

The protesters handed out lists of demands: that Santa Ana declare itself a so-called sanctuary city; that police officers not work with immigration officials; that Costa Mesa repeal its Rule of Law resolution and that Arizona repeal its anti-illegal immigration law.

One banner read: "Vengo a Defender los Derechos de la Humanidad'' – "I Come Here to Defend the Rights of Humanity.''

Sarina Sanchez, 21, a UCLA student from Los Angeles, was one of the protesters. She said the group wants Santa Ana to take a firmer stance against the Arizona immigration-enforcement law and wants Santa Ana police to stop collaborating with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. She said Thursday's protest was led by the youth in the city.

"There is a lot of youth here and immigrant families in Santa Ana," she said. She added that the eight arrested by authorities were in the country legally.

The demonstration was organized by word of mouth. Phone calls were made and messages sent through social networking sites, such as Facebook.

"We see an attack in the communities all over the nation,'' said protester Abraham Medina, a 21-year-old Santa Ana resident who attends UC Irvine. "People are scared to even go to work and come home from work.''

The protesters are not part of any specific group, he said, but represent "the community that has been silenced because of policies that introduce terror in our communities."

The protesters scoffed – "Whose street? Our street!" -- after police issued a dispersal warning about two hours after they first blocked Santa Ana Boulevard. Others chanted, "la raza unida, jamás será vencida"—"a race, united, will never be defeated."

However, most of group quickly headed for the sidewalk and down the street once 75 police officers closed in.

Members of the group would not say if they plan more demonstrations.

Thursday evening, about a dozen members of the group waited outside the Santa Ana Jail for the "detainees," as they referred to the arrested protesters. Through phone calls from friends, America Najera said, they got limited news from inside the jail.

Najera said the arrested women were being held without water. In addition, she said, two of the protesters were hurt when they were dragged down the street as they were arrested. The pair claimed they have asked for medical treatment and were refused.

Bertagna said that's not the case. Many sinks in the jail come equipped with drinking spouts for easy access to water.

"If they request water, they get water," Bertagna said. "If they request medical attention, they get medical attention."

Re-posted from OC Register