Protest march targets INS
Between 100 and 125 people marched through the streets of Carbondale Friday, disrupting rush-hour traffic, to protest plans by the Immigration and Naturalization Service to crack down on illegal immigrants and the employers that hire them.
“We just got really upset about the INS presence in the valley,” said protest organizer Felicia Trevor. “It’s going to be too disruptive.”
Trevor said the protest was organized in recent weeks, following reports the INS was looking to locate a new enforcement office in Carbondale, the heart of the Roaring Fork Valley’s Latino community.
The protesters started gathering at about 3:30 p.m. at a small strip mall on Highway 133 dominated by Latino-owned businesses. As the crowd grew, some moved to the side of the highway holding signs protesting the INS in both English and Spanish.
“No Hay Paz Con La Migra,” read one sign: There is no Peace with the INS.
“Respecto a los Derechos Humanos,” said another: Respect Human Rights.
“I don’t want the INS in this valley. It will create a lot of havoc,” said Laurie Stone, who also helped organize the event. “Latinos are big part of this valley’s community, its culture. I don’t want them to feel like they have to leave.”
The march began at about 4 p.m. About 75 protesters marched along the side of the highway, shouting “No INS, No Migre.” They were greeted with honks of support from many of the passing motorists, and derisive comments from a few others.
“I have a hard time with the idea of people being declared illegal and the government trying to force them out of the country,” said Matt Brandt, 21, a student at Colorado Mountain College.
Brandt pointed out the hypocrisy of the U.S. government forcing people to return to impoverished conditions south of the border, especially to Mexico, where U.S. corporations have set up factories and sweatshops under the North American Free Trade Agreement to take advantage of the cheap labor.
When the protesters reached Main Street, they moved into the center of the road. Police cars blocked traffic for the 10-block stretch into the center of town. As the march progressed, some of the spectators became protesters, swelling the number to nearly 125.
“I think this is great. This is America and that’s what they came here for,” said Brooke Bovee, a spectator who watched the procession from her front door in Carbondale.
“I don’t mind people coming here to make a buck; it’s OK for the Latinos to come here,” said Bovee’s friend Shad Fischer.
But Meeker resident Vicky Johnson had a different take on the protest. “I don’t know much about what’s going on, but I wouldn’t mind if all of them would go back home,” she said.
Once she understood the protest was over a proposed INS office in Carbondale, she became sarcastic. “The INS is coming to Carbondale and they’re upset? Oh, darn.”
The protesters ended at City Hall, where they rallied and made speeches for about 45 minutes.
“We came here because this country promises to be the land of opportunity. It advertises itself as the land of opportunity,” said Jesus Montes de Oca from the bed of a pickup truck that was being used as a speakers’ platform.
“As far as I’m concerned, the INS is no better than a branch of the Ku Klux Klan – they try to keep us separated and segregated. The only difference is the INS is a branch of the U.S. government,” he said.
Comments by Montes de Oca and other speakers were met with two rounds of applause, first by those who spoke the speakers’ language and then by the rest after translation. About half the marchers were Latino, most of the rest were Anglo.
As he listened to the speakers, Hugo Canas, a 10-year resident of El Jebel, said the threat of the INS to him and his family is real, even though they have their papers in order.
“They don’t know by looking at people whether or not they’ve got their papers. It bothers me that the INS will stop and ask me to prove I belong here just because I have dark hair,” he said.
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