More than 30 people, mostly faith leaders, were arrested Monday as part of a peaceful demonstration in which some participants purposefully resisted officials’ orders to move away from the border barrier.
Between 300 and 400 people, many faith and community leaders from across the country, marched down the beach to the southwest corner of the U.S. in Border Field State Park to call for protection for migrants and the right to seek asylum.
Border Patrol spokesman Eduardo Olmos said 31 people were arrested for trespassing by the Federal Protective Service and one was arrested by the Border Patrol for assaulting an agent.
The event, held on International Human Rights Day, kicked off a week of nationwide demonstrations with the message “Love knows no borders” that will last until International Migrants Day next Tuesday.
“In the face of the Trump administration’s violent rhetoric and policies, we are here to stand with border residents against militarization and for absolute protection for migrants seeking refuge and asylum,” said Joyce Ajlouny, general secretary for the American Friends Service Committee. “I’m here to declare that every person has inherent worth and dignity.”
People from Christian, Muslim, Jewish and indigenous communities joined together for the event. Many, including Ajlouny, expressed how their faiths inspired them to participate in the demonstration.
“It’s important for me to be here representing this love we believe in,” said Bishop Minerva Carcaño who is with the United Methodist Church and based in Sacramento.
Rev. Traci Blackmon of the United Church of Christ in Cleveland said that those who live in privilege have a responsibility to protest and those who live in abundance have a responsibility to be generous.
“Make no mistake about it — we live in privilege,” Blackmon said. “We are not here simply to save migrants. We are here to save ourselves as well.”
On the way to the border barrier, the marchers walked in organized rows along a muddy trail with pools of water remaining from last week’s flood. They paused when they reached the beach to read out names of those who died on migrant journeys. The first name read was Roxana Hernández, a trans woman from Honduras who died while in immigration custody. The last was Claudia Patricia Gómez González, a Guatemalan woman who was shot by a Border Patrol agent in Texas.
Carcaño and Blackmon anointed those who would be participating in the civil disobedience with oil as a blessing.
Once they reached the end of the U.S., organizers held the main group back from the concertina wire and Border Patrol agents that waited close by the fence that stretches into the ocean. A smaller group of about 50 advanced slowly in rows past the coils of wire toward the agents.
An agent with a megaphone warned them to stay behind the caution tape that delineated agents’ enforcement zone by the fence. Slowly, they inched forward into the restricted area.
“We refuse to accept that this is normal,” said Imam Omar Suleiman, who traveled from Dallas for the event, as several in the front rows took turns speaking. “You have a right to seek peace. You have a right to seek asylum.”
Border Patrol agents continued to ask the group to step back.
“We call on you to accomplish your task without violence,” one told the demonstrators. “We’re all Americans. We support your right to demonstrate.”
Shortly after, the agents formed a human wall and began walking forward, forcing the demonstrators back. After the agents backed up into the restricted zone, about 30 in the group of demonstrators got on their knees.
They sang “We Shall Not Be Moved” as they inched forward, either stepping and kneeling again or in some cases walking on their knees in the sand. Some locked arms or held hands. One woman in the middle of the group pressed her hands together in prayer.
A little while later, they all stood up again.
After Department of Homeland Security officers arrived, the agent with the megaphone issued another warning.
“You are being lawfully ordered to step behind the caution tape,” he said. “You are in direct violation of federal regulations.”
The agents again pressed forward as a line, chanting, “Move back!”
This time, about 17 were pulled from the group as they refused to go backwards. Some were pushed face down in the sand while officers tied their hands with zip ties.
The maneuvering between agents and demonstrators repeated. The agents moved back once the demonstrators were out of the restricted zone, and after the agents moved, the front line again stepped forward, leading to another half dozen arrests.
Follow me on Facebook for live updates about immigration news
firstname.lastname@example.org, @bgirledukate on Twitter
(c)2018 The San Diego Union-Tribune
Visit The San Diego Union-Tribune at www.sandiegouniontribune.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
This content is published through a licensing agreement with Acquire Media using its NewsEdge technology.