Immigration Protest Downtown Results in Arrests

Banner at the Immigration Protest, Knoxville, August 2012

I pulled into the parking garage after a long day at work, dreaming of hitting the couch for a little nap. My phone rang with a tip that something was happening on Gay Street and people had been arrested. Showing my true love and devotion for my readers and my city I grabbed my camera and walked out into the 93 degree August heat avoiding even a sideways glance at the couch.

Media Interview at the Immigration Protest, Knoxville, August 2012

Miguel Carpizo at the Immigration Protest, Knoxville, August 2012

I found Miguel Carpizo of the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition, with whom I’ve had a bit of e-mail contact in the past, and he filled me in on the events of the afternoon. His group invited another group crossing the country via bus from Arizona to Charlotte and the Democratic Convention to join them in a rally to oppose Sheriff Jimmy Jones’ proposed local involvement in 287g which authorizes local authorities to become more involved in illegal immigration enforcement. (For a full discussion of this law and immigration issues read my previous post on the topic.)

Banner at the Immigration Protest, Knoxville, August 2012

Gerardo Torres at the Immigration Protest, Knoxville, August 2012

The group of thirty undocumented citizens traveling in the bus have adopted the theme “No Papers, No Fears” and are openly declaring their undocumented status to media. They plan to make  a statement in Charlotte for their cause. I spoke to Gerardo Torres, a 41 year old carpenter, who said he is aware of the risk, but simply tired of having to live in fear. He has some hope for help from a second Obama term, though the group’s site points out the record deportations under the current administration. He sees no hope in a Romney presidency.

Gerardo Torres at the Immigration Protest, Knoxville, August 2012

I pointed out to Gerardo that I would have plenty of fear to speak out in such a manner given that deportation could easily result. He acknowledged that reality, but said he is unafraid, pointing out that perhaps if he is sent back the next group will achieve a better life. To seal his commitment he had the group’s motto and butterfly insignia tattooed on his arm as the group passed through New Orleans.

Immigration Protest, Knoxville, August 2012

Return after arrest at the Immigration Protest, Knoxville, August 2012

Police presence at the Immigration Protest, Knoxville, August 2012

Return from arrest at the Immigration Protest, Knoxville, August 2012

The arrests occurred earlier in the afternoon when four members of the group, two legal, two undocumented, spread a banner in a Gay Street intersection near the sheriff”s office and sat on it, blocking traffic. Miguel explained that their thinking was that since Jimmy Jones has four times refused to meet with them, they would go to him. The four were arrested, charged with minor offences and at least three were released by the time the group gathered to march to the river for a rally with music and speakers.

Immigration Protest, Knoxville, August 2012

Immigration Protest, Knoxville, August 2012

Immigration Protest, Knoxville, August 2012

The group numbered between a hundred and a hundred and fifty by the time they streamed down Gay Street, carefully obeying crossing laws. The spirit of the marchers reflected more hope than anger, more resolve than bitterness. I talked to one man who said he appreciated my blog about unions and the memorial for the workers who died re-building the Henley Street Bridge. That always makes me feel good.

Immigration Protest, Knoxville, August 2012

Immigration Protest, Knoxville, August 2012

Immigration Protest, Knoxville, August 2012

I talked to a couple from Indianapolis who were curious about what was happening. I explained and told them a bit about our city, which they said they were enjoying quite a bit. The rally and protest didn’t seem to diminish their new fondness for Knoxville. In all, I felt hopeful, too, for these honest people only wanting a better life and for our city which, while divided like the rest of the country seems, at least a bit, more progressive than it has seemed in the past.

Immigration Protest, Knoxville, August 2012

Immigration Protest, Knoxville, August 2012

Immigration Protest, Knoxville, August 2012

I’m not sure if it is the political season in which we find ourselves or if some real sea-change is afoot but, as I’ve noted earlier this year, something’s happening to increase protest activity in our city. I recently found protesters demonstrating against the voter ID and other similar laws which seem designed to suppress the vote. I’ve run into Greenpeace activists on Market Square. Voter registration booths have sprung up at recent events in the city.

Voter ID Protest, Krutch Park, Knoxville, August 2012

Voter Registration, Krutch Park, Knoxville, August 2012

In a way, it’s an interesting journey for the city during the life of this blog. One of the first bursts of significant readership for Stuck Inside of Knoxville came in August of 2010 when I covered the neo-Nazi rally against illegal immigration here, here and here (the rally, mostly attended by people from out of state, was roundly ridiculed by large numbers of Knoxvillians) and now we have more of a presence in support of it – at least on the street. Has Knoxville changed? Has the country? The answer to that question is probably long and complicated and the topic for another day.

 

Comments

  1. Hmmm… All I can add is that I’m ticked off at whomever spray painted “287g” all over the back of the Tennessee Theatre and First Pres Church. As for voter registration, photo id’s and “suppressing votes”…. Really? Surely not…. If I have to show ID at the airport or to purchase alcohol, etc why is it a big deal to show ID to vote which is of the greatest of privileges in this great country?

    • KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says

      Ah, my dear friend, Kevin. First of all, I doubt the opponents to 287g would spray paint it anywhere. It sounds like that would be a fan of the law. As for voter ID and voter suppression, you should read a bit more widely. Most Americans support the idea of voter ID until they learn the likely consequences and see who is behind it and why. It’s odd, Republicans everywhere are pushing that and the elimination or reduction of early voting while they have difficulty pointing to the alleged fraud that is fueling their efforts. Groups, particularly minorities, who generally support Democrats are the most likely group to be disenfranchised. Having to pay money to get an ID sounds somewhat similar to a poll tax, no? We’ve seen that movie fifty years ago in this country. Not convinced? Here’s a link: http://www.thenation.com/blog/169642/republicans-boast-about-voter-suppression-tampa-ground-shifting#

      • I don’t care who spray paints graffiti – it’s a huge lack of disrespect for the property owner, it’s unsightly and unfortunately it’s only a $50 fine IF the punk is caught and prosecuted.
        As for the voter ID, I guess we’ll have to disagree. Again, you have to show ID to buy Sudafed…. Jeez. I’m sure you watched the RNC this week and how about this quote from Chris Christie: “I believe in teachers not teachers’ unions”. Bingo! As for your thought about ID equaling a poll tax… Horse Hockey. Folks got my money for SSI, smokes, tattoos, booze and meth – enough is enough

        • KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says

          Ah, my fine friend, Kevin. We agree on the graffiti, I just didn’t want the implication to sit that it came from the group I wrote about in the blog. Voter ID is much more complicated than buying sudafed or a drink. If a bar won’t serve me because they don’t like my ID or I forgot it, no big deal. I can buy a drink elsewhere or do without. If a complication related to an unnecessary law or rule keeps one person from legitimately casting their ballot, it is a very big deal. Identity theft for the purpose of voting is nearly non-existent, yet, the laws to prevent it will stop significant numbers of legitimate voters from casting their ballots. That is un-American and anti-democratic. And NO BINGO for you or Chris Christie. He does not believe in teachers. Republicans are attacking public education and using the boogie man of the “teacher unions” to do it. They want to privatize public education, which will make a teared system victimizing the poor. Teachers unions ARE teachers. Without some sort of organized voice teachers have no voice. That leaves the Koch Brothers and other big-money people and corporations to shape education to please themselves. Like maybe they make favorable laws for charter schools – which then produce big profits for themselves. It’s the same kind of thing as the private prison companies which spend millions to push harsh immigration laws to fill their prisons. All of this with YOUR MONEY. If we need to discuss this at greater length, we should probably go for late night oysters and beer at Shuck.

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