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Protesters square off in downtown Naperville

June 13, 2010 - Naperville Sun - LINK

By JENETTE STURGES jsturges@stmedianetwork.com

GLN permalink 6-13-2010

The battle of Arizona has made its way to Naperville.

About 200 people gathered Saturday afternoon at the Naperville Municipal Center, some rallying in support of Arizona's new immigration law, some to counterprotest, and others to keep some semblance of peace.

The Stand With Arizona rally was organized by members of the Naperville Tea Party Patriots and featured speakers from that group, the Illinois Minutemen Project, an anti-immigrant group based in Skokie, and the Illinois Sons of Liberty, which rolled into downtown Naperville on motorcycles decked in American and Gadsden flags.

Across a barrier erected by Naperville police, counter-protesters from a handful of Chicago groups led by Immigrant Solidarity DuPage shouted chants like "Power to the people, no one is illegal," partially drowning out the rally's reading of Arizona's Senate bill 1070, the bill at the heart of the controversy.

The new Arizona state law, which is set to go into effect this August, would require local law enforcement officials to enforce federal immigration law, including asking for proof of citizenship for those suspected of being in the U.S. illegally, which detractors, both at Saturday's rally and across the country, say could only result in racial profiling.

"They don't want to build a wall around Canada," said Ryne Poelker, a Chicago resident taking part in the counter-protest. "How can you suspect people are immigrants without looking at their skin color?"

But across the barrier, speakers said race wasn't the issue.

"They're trying to tell us this law has everything to with racial profiling," said Rick Biesada of the Illinois Minutemen Project. "It doesn't." Biesada's speech opened with a list of figures, the cost to the U.S. and to Illinois of illegal immigration.

"Today they may be going after the immigrants, tomorrow it's gays, next, who knows?" said Andy Thayer, member of the Gay Liberation Network Chicago. "We have to stand together against hate."

"It's going extremely well," said Adam Shils, organizer with Immigrant Solidarity DuPage. "We have a legal, peaceful demonstration, and we have a strong showing of opposition to the Minutemen and others who are blaming our immigrant brothers and sisters for our nation's problems."

Peaceful being a relative term.

Joe Alger, of the Illinois Sons of Liberty, called for the counter-protesters to join in on a recital of the Pledge of Allegiance. "I'll help you with the words," he said, eliciting louder chants to drown out the Tea Party's PA system.

The din of the crowds began attracting people downtown for other reasons. Members of Naperville's Special Response Team watched from the roof of the municipal center as protesters on both sides of the barrier exchanged less than friendly words, with accusations of racism and being unpatriotic flying back and forth.

The Stand With Arizona Rally was to conclude with a march to Coldstone Creamery, an Arizona-based business, but was cut an hour short because of impending bad weather.


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