Demonstrators Get Earful

Dave Murray, Muskegon Chronicle (Michigan), May 8, 2006

A demonstration in Grand Rapids Saturday against illegal immigration turned noisy when drum-banging counterprotesters turned the event into a shout-fest.

About 60 people with flags and signs printed with slogans including “Illegals must go” and “Secure the border” were milling around downtown’s Calder Plaza at 1 p.m. Saturday when a small group with a variety of drums and a banner reading “We are all immigrants” marched from behind the Kent County building.

The marchers stepped in the middle of the immigration demonstrators, sparking intense debate as each side tried to obstruct signs and drummers tried to drown out the slogans being chanted over megaphones.

Police officers arrived and told both groups that since neither had a permit to occupy the plaza, they needed to keep moving. That led to an impromptu parade through downtown, immigration protesters followed by the drummers.

Ken Passano, a Newaygo businessman who helped to organize the event, said he does not think most people realize the effect illegal immigration has on the U.S. economy, and said “pollywog politicians” are afraid to take a stand.

“This is the biggest crisis in this country since Pearl Harbor, and people don’t realize that,” he said. “If (politicians) give in and have another amnesty program, the floodgates will open.”

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Counter-protesters held signs reading, “Corporations take jobs, not immigrants,” and “No human is illegal.”

“I feel that as a white person I have a responsibility to confront racism,” said Alex Berkman, a Grand Rapids resident. “The people who are out here against immigration are espousing a racist agenda.”


FORT WORTH—Waving American flags and chanting slogans, about 70 people turned out this morning to show their support for tough immigration reform.

Demonstrators first gathered near the intersection of Third and Commerce streets, then walked a few blocks to the old Tarrant County Courthouse.

Along the way, some motorists honked and gave participants a thumbs up in support, while a few others booed and made obscene gestures at the group.

Ira McKeon of Arlington said he was relieved that a demonstration by people who believe that stiff penalties be levied for those who enter the U.S. illegally, and employers who hire them, finally materialized.

“I wondered if anyone was ever going to put a demonstration together,” McKeon said. “I don’t mind immigrants coming over here. I just want them to do it legally.”

The rally dubbed “Stop the Invasion” remained relatively peaceful.

A group of about six people, who said they were part of the Anti-Racist Action Network, met them at the courthouse. Police, however, kept them on opposite sides of the street.

The two groups heckled one another for more than an hour.

One woman, Tory Cloud, of Austin, who is part of the Anti-Racist Action Network, a coalition of groups that opposes racism, sexism and homophobia, was issued a citation by police after she made an obscene gesture, a class C misdemeanor.

Cloud said she was there to counter what she says is discrimination against immigrants.

“Hate speech breeds hate crimes,” Cloud said. “There should be cultural awareness. People shouldn’t forget that this country was founded by immigrants.”

Demonstrators chanted several slogans during the two-hour rally. Among them, “Secure our borders and that’s an order!” “build a wall” and “no se puede,” or no you can’t. At recent marches by those who support lenient immigration reform, participants chanted “Si se Puede.” Or yes we can.

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