Demonstrators fill Independence Mall to protest Arizona's immigration law

Selena Zacatelco of La Fuerza youth group addresses the rally. Protesters predicted that Arizonans would be singled out for interrogation based on language, accents, skin color.
Selena Zacatelco of La Fuerza youth group addresses the rally. Protesters predicted that Arizonans would be singled out for interrogation based on language, accents, skin color.
Posted: June 29, 2012

Posting themselves between Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, a couple dozen demonstrators from civil rights and immigrant-aid groups took aim Wednesday at the only part of Arizona's immigration law that the U.S. Supreme Court did not overturn Monday.

Their target was the provision known as "show me your papers," requiring police to verify the immigration status of anyone they detain for any offense.

The practical result will be racial profiling, warned speakers from the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, the NAACP, the New Sanctuary Movement, and the Latino community support group Juntos.

They predicted that Arizonans will be singled out for interrogation based on their language, accents, and skin color. And that, said John Jordan, the Pennsylvania NAACP's director of civic engagement, is "a profoundly backward interpretation of civil rights."

The speakers also decried similar legislation introduced in Pennsylvania and other states and called for those bills to be defeated.

Commenting on the rally in an interview, State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R., Butler), chief sponsor of an Arizona-model bill in Pennsylvania, said his legislation was constitutionally sound. He accused the critics of using "straw man" arguments.

"The only discrimination that is going to occur," he said, "is between those who are legal and those who are not."

Speaking through a bullhorn as tourists moved about Independence Mall, Pennsylvania ACLU executive director Reginald Shuford predicted that "show me your papers" would produce further legal challenges that will cause it "to fall," too. He said the national ACLU had a "war chest" of $8.7 million to fight similar bills.

Peter Pedemonti, codirector of the New Sanctuary Movement, an interfaith coalition that advocates for immigration-policy reform, told demonstrators that the Supreme Court has been on the "wrong side" of social justice issues in the past. He cited school segregation and Japanese internment cases.

Wearing teal T-shirts and standing together, members of the Juntos youth group called La Fuerza - the Force - chanted, "The hate stops here."


Contact Michael Matza at 215-854-2541 or mmatza@phillynews.com.

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